Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie, Mrs. Dymond (1885)

Delivering clarity is giving someone a fish, a script to use, memorize and pass on as a concise distillation of a moment in time. But we change with time, new thoughts and ideas enter our work, and our message quickly becomes less accurate and less precise.

On the other hand, if we remove the goal of clarity, the end all be all, as the only tool to scale our messaging, product, and services, we can start thinking of our value as a living system and not a souvenir. As we develop, opportunities change. We give ourselves permission to go off-script, negotiate business settings in entirely new ways, and can reverberate these ways of thinking to clients and the people we help. Because when we seek clarity, we pass clarity to our clients, who then pass it on to their constitutes. So the whole chain loses its balance at the first sign of a new idea. Traditionally, innovation would come in to create a new product cycle, a new render of clarity to pass downstream.

In my teaching work (innovation frameworks, economic theory, complexity), we discuss silos and how creating (or removing) interoperability unlocks value in plain sight. One overlooked silo is the ways we think. Businesses are like a restaurant, with a set of menu items and a way to quickly scale if we get a rush of customers. The problem (/opportunity) is that the back of the house, the kitchen, is a space of creativity. The chef goes out to forage for ideas. Seasons change, new technologies present themselves. The more we can oscillate between the different parts of this cycle, the more we can exist as whole, integrated creative individuals who help other people for a living.

Giving clarity is giving people fish and hope that they come back again, but allowing for confusion, is teaching them to fish.

We can help a fellow person by pushing them up a challenging climb, but a cycle of confusion and reorientation might make them realize they are on the wrong path.

Is there space where you’re allowed to be unclear? How about instead of asking how can I be clear’? We will ask, how clear do I want to be’?

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