People like things to be in black and white. The problem is that there are a lot of gray areas in creative work…Creative thinkers need to tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty until they get an idea just right.
– Robert Sternberg, Conceptions of Giftedness
Problem solving is a very messy business. Because the world is complex and dynamic, there are no obvious solutions to most of the challenges we face. Yet often we are impatient, seek the “right” answer and rush to judgment.
Exploring multiple, competing — even mutually exclusive — options can make us uncomfortable. We dislike the ambiguity. Cannot tolerate it. Consequently, we fail to assess the full potential within many good ideas, which we reject prematurely.
Lavish in creative tension
Successful problem solving requires a high tolerance for ambiguity. Evaluating very different ideas simultaneously generates creative tension. The ability to lavish in that creative tension pays dividends. Sometimes it provokes hybrid solutions, invigorating new perspectives or flashes of insight. Other times, it simply allows you to appreciate the potentials within an idea that otherwise would have been dismissed.
To build skill as a creative problem solver, fight your desire to impose order too quickly in a messy world. Be patient. Tolerate ambiguity. Playfully explore the potentials in all ideas and remain open to any new ideas that emerge. By generating the richest set of options for every challenge, you will enjoy growing success as a creative decision-maker.