February 23, 2018

The talent that comes from clarity

Professional man and womanSometimes it seems that other people have special talents—talents we can’t match.

There may be some truth in that in some cases.

More often…

The difference is just that they’ve developed tremendous clarity in what they are about. And because they’re very clear…

They can be very focused. And because they’re very focused…

They can achieve highly. And because they achieve highly…

They seem very talented.

It might be that to get the same results, we need the same talent.

Or more likely, we just need the same clarity.

Can you find clarity in clear ambiguity?

Group talkingWe’re accustomed to wanting clarity. We’d like things to be clearly in focus. We’d like a single right answer.

But sometimes…

The best we’re going to get is clear sight of the inherently multi-faceted nature of the situation—the different considerations we need to keep in balance. For example, we might need to be both driving and consultative; we might need to work on both task and relationship; we might need both collaboration and competition.

Oddly enough…

Once we see ambiguity clearly, that brings a kind of clarity. We know what we need to balance. We can be good at both axes. The one does not need to be at the expense of the other.

Odder still, clarity is contained in clear ambiguity, like this…

CLeAR ambiguITY

Curious, don’t you think?

A broad focus—oxymoron or enabling step?

Droplet of water in focusIt’s good to focus—in fact, essential if we want to be effective and get something done.


But sometimes we need to focus on the whole, not just a part.

And that’s often our problem. We narrow our vision to something we think we can work on; something we specialise in.

Unfortunately though…

It may only be by holding all the pieces together we see where the breakthroughs are. The system may only make sense when seen in the whole; when the fragmentary parts are integrated.

Focus doesn’t have to mean narrow. It can also mean clear.

And so it could be broad, and include the whole.

Of course, any “whole” is always part of something else, but that’s another story.

Clarity or ambiguity—which is your friend?

Executives listening to a presentationMost of us have been brought up to seek precision; to look for clarity; the one right answer.

So it seems natural to be uncomfortable with ambiguity.

And yet…

Sometimes ambiguity is our friend. It helps keep people together and, oddly enough, things on track. It allows connection to develop and be sustained.

Define things too precisely and some of those involved will no longer be on board. Keep things a little bit loose and they can leave their hats in the ring, especially if they are predisposed to for other reasons.

Eventually, perhaps, the differences will have to be reconciled. Or perhaps they won’t. Maybe they’ll be unimportant by then, so much having been achieved by the joint effort.

Some questions have more than one answer anyway. “Both-and” applies more often than we realise.

So the skilful management of “creative ambiguity” is an art worth practising.

And of course, in the words of the Tao Te Ching, “Mystery is the doorway to understanding.”

Perhaps ambiguity is a doorway too.

Holding the mystery may create the conditions for learning. Going for clarity too soon may shut them down.

What’s the right amount of ambiguity to tolerate for the particular outcome you want?