“I remember discovering that it was OK to think two different things at the same time. It was a revelation to me, that you could hold those tensions without it sending you mad.”
Confusion is a sign of an open mind. At least that’s what somebody said to me when I confessed that I found a particular topic all a bit bewildering. And it was reassuring not to have to take sides in a particular discussion but to sit with the messiness for a bit longer.
I was further reminded of this at the weekend when I was reading an interview with Steve Coogan when talked about discovering the concept of duality. Similarly, in a recent interview with Stephen Fry to promote his new book, Malcolm Gladwell attributes his remarkable ability to make insightful connections between apparently unrelated fields to his parentage (his mother is a Jamican social worker and his father a British mathematician).
“What you do if your parents appear to be so different, is you look for uncommon commonalities.”
There is something about these paradoxical experiences above which I really like without quite being able to clearly articulate what it is. I guess I’m drawn to, and mentally also collect, perfect little paradoxes which somehow help make sense of the world. Here are just a few in no particular order:
Anyway, collecting paradoxes has become something of a hobby but also increasingly has become the day job. The business of innovation is trying to navigate through uncertainty without passing judgement too early. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been sitting in a meeting where people want to pass judgement on whether something is a good idea or not, to which the answer is usually, we don’t know yet. Whenever faced with a binary choice – left/right, true/false, creative/technical, public/private, black/white – remember the answer is always ‘both’.
As philosophies go, it’s not that sophisticated but I guess mine is something along the lines of “I’m always in until I’m out”. Keep your options open, keep an open mind and keep on searching for that perfect paradox.