Six Blindmen and the Elephant

An ancient Indian proverb is about 6 blind men who were feeling something.

First blindman: “It is like a spear, – hard and sharp”

Second blindman: “It is like a rope – tough and flexible”

Third blindman: “It is like a snake – long and muscular”

Fourth blindman: “It is like a fan – thin and broad”

Fifth blindman: “It is like a tree trunk – round and rough”

Sixth blindman: “It is like a wall – flat, high and solid”

Of course they were actually feeling an elephant.

Blindmen and elephant

This story is a very good metaphor for team problem solving.

The Elephant is the problem we are trying to understand.

The blind men are the team.

Touching the elephant is like us seeing a small part of the problem…based on the information we have, our accumulated experience, our assumptions, our mental model of the world. Each of us has a unique angle on the problem…like the blindmen all feeling a different body part.

The key insight from this metaphor is that ALL THE BLINDMEN ARE RIGHT.

None of their perspectives are wrong………and none are complete either. The only way to understand the situation and see the full Elephant is for everyone to pool their perspective and then piece together the puzzle into a full picture.

Take these beliefs into every team you are part of from now on:

Everyone’s perspective is useful

No individual has a complete answer

Pooling the perspective of everyone on the team will create the best solution


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