Assertive Inquiry: An Excellent (and Free) Tool For Better Teamwork, Creative Listening & Decision-Making …*

Assertive Inquiry: An Excellent (and Free) Tool For Better Teamwork, Creative Listening & Decision-Making ...* | rethinked.org

Assertive Inquiry is a framework for engaging in productive dialogue that derives from the methods and theories of leading theorist of organizational learning Chris Argyris. It is an approach to communication, which, “blends the explicit expression of your own thinking (advocacy) with a sincere exploration of the thinking of others (inquiry).”

“In other words, it means clearly articulating your own ideas and sharing the data and reasoning behind them, while genuinely inquiring into the thoughts and reasoning of your peers.”

--Playing To Win: How Strategy Really Works, pg. 136

I first learned about assertive inquiry while reading Roger Martin’s Opposable Mind: Winning Through Integrative Thinking (2009). Martin calls Assertive Inquiry one of the top three most important tools of an integrative thinker (along with generative reasoning and causal modeling) as it is a particularly helpful framework for communicating through clashing models and efficiently bringing together often contradictory models and various points of view into a whole greater than its parts.

I remember thinking it sounded like an incredible tool and skill to develop but failed to follow up on practicing. A few weeks ago, I read Martin’s latest book, Playing to Win where he once again mentions the power of Assertive Inquiry in helping teams harness their diversity and enhance and elevate collaboration, ideation and decision-making. Assertive Inquiry starts with a simple beginning stance:

“I have a view worth hearing, but I may be missing something.” It sounds simple, but this stance has a dramatic effect on group behavior if everyone in the room holds it. Individuals try to explain their own thinking–because they do have a view worth hearing. So, they advocate as clearly as possible for their own perspective. But because they remain open to the possibility that they may be missing something, two very important things happen. One, they advocate their view as a possibility, not as a single right answer. Two, they listen carefully and ask questions about alternative views. Why? Because, if they might be missing something, the best way to explore that possibility is to understand not what others see, but what they do not.”

-Playing To Win: How Strategy Really Works pg.136-137

Once you are aware of the perspective from which you are approaching the conversation and have focused on cultivating the proper stance, there are three key tools that you must employ as the conversation unfolds: 

  1. Advocating your own position and then inviting responses (e.g., “This is how I see the situation, and why; to what extent do you see it differently?”)
  2. Paraphrasing what you believe to be the other person’s view and inquiring as to the validity of your understanding (e.g., “It sounds to me like your argument is this; to what extent does that capture your argument accurately?”)
  3. Explaining a gap in your understanding of the other person’s  views, and asking for more information (e.g., “It sounds like you think this acquisition is a bad idea. I’m not sure I understand how you got there. Could you tell me more?”)

These kinds of phrases, which blend advocacy and inquiry, can have a powerful effect on the group dynamic. While it may feel more forceful to advocate, advocacy is actually a weaker move than balancing advocacy and inquiry. Inquiry leads the other person to genuinely reflect and hear your advocacy rather than ignoring it and making their own advocacy in response. 

-Playing To Win: How Strategy Really Works pg.136-137

Assertive Inquiry could have huge payoffs for teamwork. It creates an atmosphere of authentic openness, inquiry and creative listening. It also seems like an excellent framework for having better conversations all around–at work or at home, with one individual or many. Try it out …*

#MOMA100Days Project – A Bite-Sized Way to Play Creatively & Be Part of a Community That Celebrates Process …*

#MOMA100Days Project - A Bite-Sized Way to Play Creatively & Be Part of a Community That Celebrates Process ...* | rethinked.org  - Illustration by Elle Luna

Illustration by Elle Luna

“Anyone who is hungry to jump-start their creative practice, who is curious about being part of a community that celebrates process, and those who are busy with work and family commitments, but searching for a bite-sized way to play creatively.” – Elle Luna 

Does that sound like you? If so, you should consider participating in MOMA’s 100 Days project, which kicks off April 6th. The MOMA 100 Days project requires you to commit to performing a creative act of your choosing every day for 100 days. You then must photograph each of your creations and share them with the hashtag #MOMA100Days and another hashtag of your choosing so that your personal project can be viewed all in one place.

Here is how the endlessly fantastic Elle Luna describes the inspiration for the project to Tina Essmaker of The Great Discontent:

 A year ago, a group of us launched a social media version of a grad school project conceived by Michael Bierut, a prolific, talented designer, writer, and teacher. For years, he led graduate graphic design students at the Yale School of Art in a workshop that he called “The 100 Day Project.” The premise for Michael Bierut’s class was simple: each student chose one action to repeat every day for 100 days. For example, one student made a poster in under a minute every day for 100 days; another danced in public every day and made a video; another student, Rachel Berger, picked a paint chip out of a bag and responded to it in writing for 100 days.

Basically, if you can dream it, you can do it. The only premise? Participants have to do the same action every day for 100 days, and they have to document every instance of 100. Sounds totally cool, right? That’s what I thought when I first read about this project on Design Observer. Not only were the projects clever, but they also offered an opportunity to grow in one of the ways my friends and I were craving: discipline. The great surrender is the process; showing up day after day is the goal. For the 100-Day Project, it’s not about fetishizing finished products—it’s about the process.

A hundred days! I can recall the questions that raced through my mind before I decided to jump in: Can I handle it? Will I push through when my schedule is jammed? Will I share even when I can’t resolve a piece? Will I show up every day, even when it hurts—especially when it hurts? A group of us banded together and decided to share our projects on Instagram, tagging images with #the100dayproject. People of all ages joined in, and there was something very empowering about the accountability of doing the project alongside other people in a very public way via Instagram.

Source: Elle Luna: 100 Day-Project + MoMA via The Great Discontent

What will you commit to creating for 100 days? Let us know …* 

#MOMA100Days Project - A Bite-Sized Way to Play Creatively & Be Part of a Community That Celebrates Process ...* | rethinked.org  - Illustration by Elle Luna

Illustration by Elle Luna

Free Online Courses To Help You Become A More Effective Leader of Change …*

Free Online Courses To Help You Become A More Effective Leader of Change ...* | rethinked.org

Hope everyone is staying warm and safe today. If you’re stuck at home and looking for something to do, how about checking out some great (and free) learning opportunities to acquire and develop your skills and knowledge on change and leadership? There’s a whole host of great courses starting over the next few weeks on +Acumen.

+Acumen is a new initiative started in 2012 with the vision of providing thousands of emerging leaders around the world with the skills and moral imagination they need to become more effective at changing the way the world tackles poverty.  +Acumen makes Acumen’s work in leadership and the insights from our work in the field available to everyone. As of Summer 2014, +Acumen has reached 50,000+ participants from 167 countries through its courses. +Acumen also manages various in-person networks – such as chapters, alumni, and course ambassadors – that allow our broader course community to get more involved in supporting Acumen and each other.

From Adaptive Leadership to Storytelling for Change, +Acumen offers a wide variety of free online courses that focus on moral imagination, operational skills and financial skills to help you become a more effective leader of change.

At Acumen, leadership begins with moral imagination: the humility to see the world as it is, and the audacity to imagine the world as it could be. Combined with operational skills and financial skills, our courses aim to equip emerging change leaders with the tools to change the way the world tackles poverty and build a world based on dignity.

Head over to the website to browse the various learning opportunities on offer.

learn, lead & rethink . . . *

On being a cyborg: Augmented Reality in Education…*

augmented reality technology*

Augmented reality is a live view of the real world where elements are supplemented by computer-generated input.Augmented Reality allows educators and students view layers of digital information superimposed on the physical world, often through an Android or iOS device. Perhaps the most popular recent example of augmented reality technology is Google Glass – a  product that was withdrawn from the market just a few days ago. As can be seen in the video below, Google glass was intended to augment ones reality with a variety of data, including directions, phone numbers, and text messages.

educational potential*

However, there are still a ton of augmented reality applications and tools out there that have been demonstrated to be effective, both for daily life and for education. For example, Google sky map is a FREE educational astronomy app that uses the camera on your smartphone. When you hold it up to the sky, the app identifies stars and constellations.

Sky-Map

Science seems like a particularly fruitful content area for AR functionality. Other apps such as Elements 4D and Anatomy 4D by Daqri help students to better understand chemistry and human biology.

Another app with huge educational potential is Aurasma – an open source tool to augment your surroundings in a variety of ways. For example, teachers can provide AR guidance attached to homework pages, or students can assign book review audio recordings to the covers of specific books. Some uses can be seen in the video below.

 

Rethinking education with AR …*

I like AR tools because the technology affords new ways to interact with the world, but still leaves space for the educator to design and determine how to use it. For example, a history teacher could use Aurasma to develop an interactive world map in the classroom, where students attach “auras” of articles and facts about different locations. A teacher could also use Aurasma on a timeline in similar ways. This allows visuals in a classroom to provide information at a variety of depth levels and mapping information in this way could help students to establish better organized mental models.

Additionally, many uses of AR are student-centered, enabling students as co-creators of knowledge and more active participants in their own learning processes, something I find vital to education (and have blogged about before here and here).

How would you use this technology in your classroom? Have you used AR before?

“‘I wonder what’s really going on for him right now?’ – That moment of curiosity is the doorway to empathy”

"'I wonder what’s really going on for him right now?' - That moment of curiosity is the doorway to empathy" | rethinked.org

This week, the theme that caught my attention was this notion of creating sparks or moments of curiosity to activate and facilitate empathy, connection and community. Over on Ashoka’s Start Empathy blog, Joshua Freedman shares an instance where he got frustrated with his son over homework and failed to live up to being the parent he wants to be. His son was putting off doing his homework and Freedman started yelling and blaming him in an aggressive manner. In retrospect, Freedman acknowledges the various failures of emotional intelligence he exhibited in the way he responded to the situation and focuses particularly on the fact that he was overly focused on his own perspective and unresponsive to what his son’s internal reality may have felt like.

When I increase empathy and relook at the situation with compassion, I see a different story.  Perhaps he was afraid, too.  Perhaps he felt powerless, too.  Perhaps he’s learned the exact same pattern I’ve modeled: When you’re afraid, attack.  Perhaps our power struggle was simply two people afraid to honestly share their fears.

[ … ]

Hopefully, tomorrow I’ll remember to take that all-important pause and ask myself: I wonder what’s really going on for him right now? That moment of curiosity is the doorway to empathy, and it’s a game changer.

[ … ]

That little pause of curiosity is a way to step out of the stress reaction, and step into being the person we choose to be.

Then yesterday I discovered artist Hunter Franks whose various projects aim to do just that–to create these sparks of curiosity that promote empathy, and connection–across communities.

San Francisco-based artist Hunter Franks challenges our ever-increasing personal and physical isolation by transforming public spaces into positive venues of conversation and connection. His public installations create shared spaces and experiences that break down social barriers and catalyze connections between people and communities.

Franks’ various projects include urban interventions such as The Neighborhood Postcard Project which,

collects personal positive stories from underrepresented communities and mails them to random people in different neighborhoods within the same city to catalyze connections between people and neighborhoods.

The Story Forest:

The Story Forest invited passersby to share a story from when they were little and hang it from the branch of a tree for others to read. The Story Forest created a playful shared space as participants took time to write their story and then weaved through the tree branches, reading the stories of others.

or The First Love Project:

Regardless of what we look like or where we come from, we all share the story of a first love. The First Love Project collects the story of people’s first love as well as a portrait and displays them in public space.

To amplify his efforts at creating moments of curiosity and empathy, Franks started the League of Creative Interventionist:

The League of Creative Interventionists is a global network of people working to build community through creativity. League chapters around the world carry out creative interventions that build connections between people and add to the vibrancy of their communities. 

I love everything about this–the mission, the ideas and the execution. To find out more about how to join or start a local chapter of the League of Creative Interventionists, head over to their website, where you can also check out past interventions from around the world. Prepare to be inspired and curious about your neighbors!

. . . * 

Hat Tip: Bringing Divided Cities Together, With A Little Creativity

Jugaad: A Hindi Concept for “Spotting Opportunities in Adverse Circumstances & Improvising Solutions Using Simple Means”

Jugaad: A Hindi Concept for "Spotting Opportunities in Adverse Circumstances & Improvising Solutions Using Simple Means" | rethinked.org

“Jugaad is a Hindi word meaning an innovative fix or an improvised solution born from ingenuity. Jugaad is the gutsy art of spotting opportunities in the most adverse circumstances and resourcefully improvising solutions using simple means. Jugaad is about seeing the glass always half-full.”  – Navi Radjou

I came across the term “jugaad” yesterday while reading a listicle on Mother Nature Network about  7 cultural concepts we don’t have in the U.S. I was struck by how closely the Hindi concept resonated with the way our team has framed, constructed and explored the idea of rethinking–as being about making do with what we have by reframing problems into opportunities instead of constantly trying to reinvent the wheel or start things anew. For us, rethinking is a method and framework for innovating and creating smart solutions to the myriad problems–big and small–that crop up in our lives, work and communities. But rethinking is also a value, a belief in living lightly, in making the most in a world of shrinking resources and increasing complexity. It is a relentless commitment and belief in our collective ability to enhance our lives and those of others.

Jugaad is a Hindi word that means “an innovative fix” or a “repair derived from ingenuity,” — think a jury-rigged sled for snowy fun, or a bicycle chain repaired with some duct tape. It’s a frequently used word in India where frugal fixes are revered. But the idea has further merit beyond figuring out solutions to get by with less. It also encapsulates the spirit of doing something innovative. As the authors of Jugaad Innovation write in Forbes, they see jugaad in many other places than the repair shop: “In Kenya, for instance, entrepreneurs have invented a device that enables bicycle riders to charge their cellphones while pedaling. In the Philippines, Illac Diaz has deployed A Litre of Light — a recycled plastic bottle containing bleach-processed water that refracts sunlight, producing the equivalent of a 55-watt light bulb — in thousands of makeshift houses in off-the-grid shantytowns. And in Lima, Peru (with high humidity and only 1 inch of rain per year), an engineering college has designed advertising billboards that can convert humid air into potable water.”

Source: 7 cultural concepts we don’t have in the U.S

After reading the Forbes article, I researched the term and found an article on Harvard Business Review where Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu, and Simone Ahuja–the authors of Jugaad Innovation: Think Frugal, Be Flexible, Generate Breakthrough Growth (2012)– outline four operating principles for innovating the Jugaad way:

  1. Thrift not waste. This first rule — which promotes frugality — helps tackle scarcity of all forms of resources.
  2. Inclusion, not exclusion. This second rule helps entrepreneurial organizations to put inclusiveness into practice — by tightly connecting with, and harnessing, the growing diversity that permeates their communities of customers, employees, and partners.
  3. Bottom-up participation, not top-down command and control. This third rule drives collaboration. CEOs who tend to act as conductors must learn to facilitate collaborative improvisation just as players in jazz bands do.
  4. Flexible thinking and action, not linear planning. This fourth rule facilitates flexibility in thinking and action. Jugaad-practicing firms are highly adaptable as they aren’t wedded to any single business model and pursue multiple options at any time.

Source: Jugaad: A New Growth Formula for Corporate America

What are some opportunities for jugaad in your community? 

Want to Boost Your Mood? Learn Something …*

Want to Boost Your Mood? Learn Something ...* | rethinked.org

Just the other day, a good friend was telling me about the delightful experience he just had of picking up a book on a subject he already knows much about and discovering new insights and ways of thinking about this particular topic. “Learning feels so good,” he said. I agree, and so does neuroscience.

Neurologically, learning is inherently rewarding. Acquiring new information increases our production of dopamine, which improves our mood and heightens our interest in related activities. It makes everything we do more interesting.

Why Work Should Get a Little Harder Every Day via Harvard Business Review

{ The Wisdom of the Simple Act } Activate Your Bias For Action Each Morning By Making Your Bed …*

As I noted in my post last Friday, I have decided to make 2015 a year of action. In that same post, I explored how Integrative Thinking can help create a strategic framework for focusing our actions and clarifying our playing field. Positive Psychology also has much to offer in terms of insights about doing–the importance of grit and cultivating a growth mindset, for example. Wanting to explore the three main tools of my rethinked*annex project, I started thinking about how I might harness Design Thinking to help me grow my bias for action muscle. I reflected on the design process and focused in on the common practice of looking at analogous situations when trying to properly frame and solve a challenge. Which is how I ended up watching a video of Naval Adm. William H. McRaven’s 2014 commencement speech at the University of Texas at Austin. In his speech, McRaven translates what he learned while completing training for the U.S. Navy SEALs to broader lessons for positively changing the world. I was intrigued by the first lesson, what McRaven calls the ‘wisdom of the simple task’–

“It was a simple task, mundane at best, but every morning, we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that we were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle-hardened SEALs. But the wisdom of the simple act has been proven to me many times over. If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. And by the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter–if you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right. And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made; that you made. And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.” 

I’ve decided to test out the wisdom of the simple act for myself and have committed to making my bed every morning (yes, I’ll admit, I never make it otherwise–cue a recent article about the link between messiness and creativity). I made it this morning and did feel a small mental boost and eagerness to keep getting things done. Whether that’s from actually making my bed, or due to some sort of placebo effect because I anticipated that the act of making it would make me want to keep my action ‘cascade’ going, I do not know. I’ll see if I still find the act motivating in a month.

On a related note, in my search for finding ways to translate tools, mindsets and practices from analogous situations to my particular challenge–becoming better at executing–I’ve discovered Mark Divine. Divine is a retired U.S. Navy SEAL Commander and has built a number of businesses around translating the training and mindset of the SEALs to help civilians enhance and develop their leadership and performance levels. I’m currently reading his latest book, The Way of the Seal: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed, and I’ve signed up for the trial version of his Unbeatable Mind online training course. I’ll share more about Divine’s tools and ideas in a later post, for now, you can check out McRaven’s commencement speech below.

make your bed, & rethink …*

On being a cyborg: Fitness Trackers & Education…*

activity trackers…*

For my first installation of On Being a Cyborg, I want to talk about a piece of technology that I’ve been using for a year now. Activity trackers are a popular type of wearable technology that can measure steps taken or general movement throughout the day. See this recent NY Times article for a guide to some of the newest ones. Combined with user data, these trackers calculate distance walked, calories burned, floors climbed, and activity duration and intensity. They pair with apps or websites to deliver you lots of data about your daily activity.

I personally use the Fitbit Flex, a bracelet that calculates my steps each day, tells me how many calories I’ve burned, and even my sleep patterns. With the accompanying app, I’ve been able to log workouts, calorie inIMG_5296take, and water intake to assess my own health on a broad-scale basis. I’ve also used the sleep tracker to recognize that I generally get an hour less sleep than time I’ve been sleeping, due to “restlessness” that the tracker picks up.

Fitbit and similar technology use gamification techniques to encourage us to be more aware of our fitness levels and active throughout the day. These technologies allow us to set our own goals and develop self-efficacy around fitness by enabling us to reach them. Constant feedback on progress and rewards push users to move more. I’ve set my goal “steps” to 10,000 each day, and my band has 5 lights that light up as I reach incremental goals throughout the day. Just seeing that I have 4,000 steps left to my goal will give me that extra push to walk home from school instead of taking the subway, and I’ve been known to pace around my apartment at 11:50pm to finish getting all of my steps before midnight.

IMG_5295

increased awareness of our bodies and our place in the world…*

So how does this really relate to rethinked..* ? As Kate Hartman explains in The art of wearable communication, wearable devices focus on the ways in which we relate to ourselves. They enable an increased awareness of our bodies and our relationship to the world around us. As Hartman explains:

“…we’re in this era of communications and device proliferation, and it’s really tremendous and exciting and sexy, but I think what’s really important is thinking about how we can simultaneously maintain a sense of wonder and a sense of criticality about the tools that we use and the ways in which we relate to the world.”

Again, this brings the story back to the idea that the best kinds of technology will help us to be more human. Activity trackers can help us better understand ourselves, and in that, they help us to be better versions of ourselves. Do you use any sort of wearable technology? How has it impacted your life?

 

{ Ambiguity & Passion } How Integrative Thinking Can Help Us Build A Strategy For Winning in Life & Work …*

{ Ambiguity & Passion } How Integrative Thinking Can Help Us Build A Strategy For Winning in Life & Work ...* | rethinked.org

For this week’s Friday Link Fest, I want to explore something that has kept cropping up in my reading over the past few days and which is a core tension in most aspects of people’s lives and creative work: convergence versus divergence. The need for balance between converging and diverging–dreaming and focusing, thinking and doing–has certainly been a central and uncomfortable tension in my own life. In fact, I have made finding a better way to live out that tension a core priority of my 2015 resolutions by giving this year the theme of “Execution”.

I hate easy binaries but on the thinking-doing spectrum, I must admit to being firmly in the thinking camp. I love thinking, in all its forms and can spend hours, days even, questioning, planning, reflecting, imagining and daydreaming. Execution, however, is a different matter– I freeze up, I delay, I procrastinate, I tell myself I haven’t had time to properly think everything through. Learning about a growth mindset has helped me make some progress in being less afraid of taking action, as has practicing design thinking with its strong emphasis on rapid prototyping. Yet, taking action remains a tentative, sporadic and laborious endeavor for me.

Earlier this week I read an excellent essay, Ambiguity & the Art of Meaning, by Umair Haque, which examined this tension between our love of ambiguity and open-ended possibility and our need to feel we are living meaningful, enriching lives.

“Ambiguity. It’s the defining characteristic of this age.”

[ … ]

“And so we’re all what you might call faithful ambiguists these days. We’re fascinated by the in between; drawn to the double-sided; obsessed by the contradictory.

Ambiguity’s exciting. Thrilling, even. The unresolved is the undecided; and the undecided, like a roulette wheel, rouses our blood while it spins.”

[ … ]

“Here’s the truth. That’s not good enough. What are we really protecting ourselves from when we declare our tiny wars on ambiguity? Ourselves. The people we were meant to be.

“Ambiguity asks us: what do our lives mean? And unless we can resolve ambiguity, we will always be left with the lingering suspicion: they could, and should, have meant more. That what we took with one hand, we simply gave away with the other. “

Ambiguity & The Art of Meaning, Umair Haque

I am aware that part of my mental block with execution has much to do with my fear of making the wrong choice, of going the wrong route. While I explore ideas and options in my head, I tell myself that I am keeping my possibilities in “real life” open. But after a while, the days become weeks, then months, then years and still I put things off; I don’t commit and I stay stagnant. A growing anxiety within me whispers that I am wasting my time and my opportunities.

“There is a great tension at the heart of every ambiguity. This or that? Up or down? Left or right? The answer is not either or. The choice might leave you satisfied — but the tension will surely leave you discontented with your very satisfaction. The answer, if there is one, is through. Resolving ambiguity is not just making choices between two opposites; nor is it merely learning to see two opposites, and throwing one’s hands up in the air at them. It is synthesis. Discovering how to forge two opposites, which should repel, into one whole — that is greater than the sum of its parts.” 

- Ambiguity & The Art of Meaning, Umair Haque

Does this sound familiar to you? Yes, Integrative Thinking! Speaking of Integrative Thinking, I have just finished reading Roger Martin’s latest book, co-authored with A.G. Lafley, Playing To Win: How Strategy Really Works (2013), which made me think of Haque’s essay by focusing on the need to make choices. According to the father of Integrative Thinking, strategy is, at its core, just a synonym for making choices and performing the actions that support that choice.

“It is natural to want to keep options open as long as possible, rather than closing off possibilities by making explicit choices. But it is only through making and acting on choices that you can win. Yes, clear, tough choices force your hand and confine you to a path. But they also free you to focus on what matters. What matters is winning. Great organizations–whether companies, not-for-profits, political organizations, agencies, what have you–choose to win rather than simply play.”

Playing To Win, Roger & Lafley, pg.5

“Winning” may sound a bit strange in a personal context. We are told often enough that comparing ourselves to others is a losing game. But if one frames winning in terms of being all that one can be, winning by making the choices that will allow us to reach a full, purposeful life lived with passion, commitment and conviction, we very quickly can see how applicable strategy is to our personal lives.

In Playing to Win, Martin and Lafley create a framework, which revolves around five core choices, to approach strategic thinking:

“Winning should be at the heart of any strategy. In our terms, a strategy is a coordinated and integrated set of fives choices: a winning aspiration, where to play, how to win, core capabilities, and management systems.”

Playing To Win, Roger & Lafley, pg.5

Playing to Win is an excellent book if you’re looking to rethink your strategy and update your business model. Yet, while I was reading it, and learning more about each of the five choices, I could not stop thinking about how relevant this framework was for one’s personal life.

So while the ambiguous and the open-ended are immensely attractive, meaning, purpose and growth come from making choices.

“It is not just finding a lover you hate; or a friend you desperately love…but a lover you can build a great friendship with. It is not just finding a career that enriches you, or a fortune that impoverishes you…but riches that enlarge you…and leave you feeling fortunate enough to thank creation for every moment you are alive. It is not just a life that makes you happy…where “happiness” is merely suffering you are relieved to avoid…but a happiness that makes you ache with purpose, burn with passion, laugh at fate, rebel against destiny.”

Ambiguity & The Art of Meaning, Umair Haque

These choices are not compromises, the issue at hand is not choosing for the sake of choosing. We must move past the false binaries we create, we must put in the hard work necessary to reframe either-or choices as integrated options that take the best of option A and the best of option B to create an optimal choice in C (to that end, I highly recommend Martin’s books on Integrative Thinking, The Opposable Mind: Winning Through Integrative Thinking). This an uncomfortable process, as the authors of The Capabilities Your Organization Needs to Sustain Innovation published this week on Harvard Business Review, point out:

“The problem – and the leadership challenge – arises because options A and B are often incompatible, even completely opposable, ideas. To arrive at option C means people must keep both A and B on the table, and that is difficult to do. When faced with two seemingly mutually exclusive alternatives, the human impulse is to choose one and discard the other as soon as possible, or to forge a simple compromise. We crave the clarity provided by that kind of clean, assured decision-making. We crave it so much, in fact, that when a leader refuses to make a choice quickly, even when it can only be arbitrary or capricious, we grumble about the “lack of leadership around here.” It takes courage to hold open a multitude of possibilities long enough that new ways of combining them can emerge. There is often great pressure to make a choice, any choice, and move on.”

Once we decide what it is we will commit to, what path is right for us to grow into ever richer and fuller versions of who we might become, we must continue to push and provide the effort necessary to support and activate these choices (to which end, I highly recommend Martin and Lafley’s book on strategy, Playing To Win: How Strategy Really Works.) For as Haque points out at the end of his essay,

“The question is this. Whose lives are we creating? Ours — or someone else’s? Do we become the people we are told to be — or the people we were meant to be?”

- Ambiguity & The Art of Meaning, Umair Haque

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