Fear of the Unknown?Reply
The "stand-out" leaders cited in the 2010 IBM Global CEO survey (those who had successfully capitalized on the increasing complexity of the global markets through creative thinking and innovative practices) encouraged other leaders to similarly increase their comfort with ambiguity and ongoing experimentation. They also advocated letting go of command-and-control management styles in order to foster more mutual trust in organizations.
“Sfumato,” which translates to “going up in smoke,” is a “willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty,” and is the fourth of the da Vinci habits recommended by author Michael Gelb. He writes, “As you awaken your powers of Curiosità, probe the depths of Dimostrazione (experience), and sharpen your senses, you come face to face with the unknown. Keeping your mind open in the face of uncertainty is the single most powerful secret of unleashing your creative potential.” This ability does not come to those who rely solely on their left-brained, analytical thinking capacities.
Gelb writes that the ceaseless application of these practices led da Vinci to many great insights and discoveries, “but they also led him to confront the vastness of the unknown and ultimately the unknowable. Yet his phenomenal ability to hold the tension of opposites, to embrace uncertainty, ambiguity, and paradox was a critical characteristic of his genius.” The theme of the tension of opposites grew in his work over the course of his lifetime – we can see this in even a cursory look at the maestro’s Mona Lisa.
Gelb writes, “In the past, a high tolerance for uncertainty was a quality to be found only in great geniuses like Leonardo. As change accelerates, we now find that ambiguity multiplies, and illusions of certainly become more difficult to maintain. The ability to thrive with ambiguity must become part of our everyday lives. Poise in the face of paradox is a key not only to effectiveness, but to sanity in a rapidly changing world.”
In his self-assessment on the strength of our own Sfumato, Gelb invites us to rate ourselves on a scale of 1-10 on each point, with one being a "maniacal" need for certainty at all times, and ten approximating that of an enlightened Taoist master.
- I am comfortable with ambiguity.
- I am attuned with the rhythms of my intuition.
- I thrive with change.
- I have a tendency to “jump to conclusions.”
- I enjoy riddles, puzzles, and puns.
- I usually know when I am feeling anxious.
- I spend sufficient time on my own.
- I trust my gut.
- I can comfortably hold contradictory ideas in my mind.
- I delight in paradox and am sensitive to irony.
- I appreciate the importance of conflict in inspiring creativity.
He then offers a variety of good exercises that help participants to explore the various aspects of their own Sfumato and ways to increase ability in this area.
In closing, the author points to a study conducted by the American Management Association in the 1980’s that concluded that “the most successful managers were distinguished by ‘high tolerance for ambiguity and intuitive decision-making skill.’” In the The Logic of Intuitive Decision Making, Dr. Weston Agor reported his findings from extensive interviews conducted of senior executives who overwhelmingly concluded that their worst decisions had resulted from not following their own intuitions.
Tags: 2010 IBM CEO Report, Adapting to Change and overcoming Fear, Changing Cultures to become Innovative, Comfort with Ambiguity and embracing the Unknown, Creative Thinking Practices & Exercises, creativity and innovation in organizations, Curiosity & Asking Questions, global ceo survey, how to think like leonardo da vinci, Integrity and innovation, Integrity; Following own drummer, Learning from mistakes, michael gelb, Riding the Wave Training & Development, sfumato, tension of opposites and creativity, The Logic of Intuitive Decision MakingReturn >>