May 24, 2010
All Ducks Do Not Walk in a Row

Breakthrough results are not always the result of a revolutionary Eureka moment. Quite the opposite.

They are often the result of doubt, confusion, ambiguity, and experiments that go awry.

When Thomas Edison was asked how it felt to fail 800 times before coming up with tungsten as the filament for the light bulb, his answer was a revealing one. "Fail?" he said. "I didn't fail once. I learned 800 times what didn't work."

Edison had the ability to tolerate ambiguity.

Like most breakthrough thinkers, he had the ability to dwell in the grey zone -- the space between knowing and not knowing. He had faith in the creative process and was willing to be disoriented, muddled, baffled, and confused because he knew that stuff was often a pre-condition to discovery.

Confusion was not his enemy.

"Confusion," as Henry Miller put it, "is simply a word we have invented for an order that is not yet understood."


If you are trying to birth a breakthrough idea, product, service, or business, get comfortable with ambiguity.

Even more importantly, get comfortable with the discomfort that accompanies ambiguity. Give up your addiction to having all your ducks in a row.

People may think you're a quack, but so what? Ducks don't always march in a row. And those that do, may be closer to wind-up toys that the real thing.

Besides, wasn't the universe itself born from chaos? All those swirling gases! All those nebulae! And all without a Starbucks in sight!

THE BIG QUESTION: What new idea of yours is bubbling on the brink of breakthrough? In what ways can you stay with it -- even if you are impatient for an answer NOW?

More about the creative process

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at May 24, 2010 09:55 AM

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