Clay Shirky has offered these perceptive tweets about the Occupy Wall Street protests.

People complaining that #OWS don’t have coherent demands haven’t noticed that US response to the crisis isn’t coherent either.

Groups of voters have incompatible goals so working democracy doesn’t produce coherent policies but livable compromises.

#OWS doesn’t win by proposing a better compromise. They win by subjecting the current one to disintegrating pressure.

I think the same thinking could apply to a lot of the meetings we go to. There are often people who insist as if it’s obvious, that some particular process must be used in order to reach agreement. They don’t get that all processes are a compromise of some kind. They also probably mistake what level of agreement a meeting is capable of. Sometimes we long for greater coherence and certainty than can ever really exist in nature. In that mode, we disparage uncertainty, messiness and supposed incoherence. That’s the kind of thinking that likes to dismiss the Wall St protests, and it’s the kind that probably dismisses a lot of things that might contain at least the seeds of change and innovation.

I’m inclined to nod along with Tim Kastelle when he says

The more businesses I work in and talk with, the more convinced I become that the single most important management skill to develop is a tolerance for ambiguity.

1 thought on “Uncertainty

  1. Anna Pollock

    Ambiguity – yes & Paradox also.

    Honest conversations don’t start with solutions and fixed agendas. If they do, they’re some form of propaganda. That’s why the media can’t understand what’s happening. They expect manifestos, declarations of boundary & differentiation & solutions even though the nature of the problem has yet to be identified.

    Laser beams have coherence and can cut though steel. We’re not there yet but the light beams are lining up and watch out when they do. @pembridgeanna


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