Skip to content

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity

January 12, 2012

Do you recognise that during meetings some people keep on talking about ideas, while others just want to hear about practical stuff? And how difficult it is to get anything done if that’s the case? Intrigued by the complexity of choosing, decision making and opportunity, I have been trying for a while to make some sense of it all. What is the difference between options and choosing, how do concepts like creativity, focus and decision making fit in? Triggered by a quote from Einstein (thanks to a tweet from David Gurteen), I decided to write a post about this (probably missing Einsteins point but ok).

The problem is that both finding out what your options are, and choosing from the options that you have found is a difficult thing to do, and yet crucial for doing (and feeling) well. Limited by perception, (un)focused attention and bias, we are not very good at ‘seeing’ all the options that are available to us. And then, even more difficult, we are paralysed by our anxieties to choose (See post: “The pacifying ideology of choice”), again bias, and lack of ‘internal compass’ when we have to choose from the options we have.

Please follow my thinking and have a look at the scribble below:

  1. To be able to choose, you have to have options
  2. The more options you have,
    • … the more valuable choices you can potentially make
    • … the more difficult it is to choose
    • … the more autonomy and control you experience (which is good, see post “Why we do it? – Motivation”)
  3. In order to know which choices would be most valuable, you have to know what you want.
  4. So more options = better and nicer, but more difficult
  5. Creativity and innovation are good, because they lead to more options.


Creating options On the left side of the picture, as we move to the future, we start with generating options, trough e.g. creativity. The less biased we are, the more options we will see. Some love doing this, and others hate it as it costs time and the practical value can be hard to see (the graph will be wider). I guess doubting, and generating questions, will help create more options (See post “The dubio-engine – Accellerate your (self-) awareness“).

Options-optimum Then comes the moment where we have enough options (in the middle), depending on how successful we were in the first phase. This point can be experienced as ‘being in control’, or being autonomous, which can be motivating.

Decision making And then, we can start focusing on our final choice. Ideally we weigh all the options and evaluate them on the value for us (and hopefully others involved).

Both phases can be focused on the what, the how or the why. The creating options process can be about purpose (e.g. why would somebody do x?), or the what (e.g. what else can we do). And the decision making phase can be about deciding what to do (what), or about putting the decisions in to practice (how).

Q: Does this make sense to you too? Do you recognise how some people keep talking ‘diverging’, and others ‘converging’ during meetings?

Image on top of post, source Flickr


From → Awareness, Choice

  1. Mireille permalink

    Stravinsky wrote – I paraphrase him – that in order to create something, he needed limitations. I read this when I studied musicology (I also studied the viola at the time and have played a.o. Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps, which was totally wonderful).

    What Stravinsky wrote about creativity – how in order to create something one needs boundaries – is very true. Art is a craft, for starters. Becoming good at an ‘art’ (like painting, writing, playing an instrument, sculpture) takes 10-20 years of hard practice. And then when one is good at something, one still needs boundaries. Assumptions, a solid ground on which to build. In earlier ages these were the rules of the craft. Later with music there was a stage that qua composition the old rules (conventions) were discarded. So composers then had to make up their own new rules, like the 12 tone system or Peter Schat’s ‘toonklok’, and often even per composition.

    Point is that divergence can only happen when there is a ground, a starting point. A kind of gravity. Without that we just hit air, whatever we do. Perhaps some businesses can survive this kind of vacuum, but for art it is disastrous because one cannot tell a story without gravitation. If nothing is important, then there can be no story, no journey, no return or resolution, no suspense.

    Perhaps my idea of gravity is a bit like your why? Still thinking aloud here. 😉

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this! I’ve been thinking about what you wrote and I sort of agree, but not totally…I think… My doubts are about whether, in a creative process, you need boundaries all the time. Like you wrote, mastery is an important factor, and especially there I think an artist should be able to let go of her/his (conscious) boundaries. Followed by an evaluation of their boundary-less artistic process, along their assumptions of quality. So the what (choices) and why (evaluation) are bound, but the how (mastery, artistic process) should not. Make sense?

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. A hierarchy of questions « In dubio

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: