Sometimes, when people ask me what I do for a living, that’s my answer: “I confuse people for money.”
“Why would anyone do that, pay you to confuse them?” Well, because I don’t just deliver any old confusion that leaves you helpless and, well, confused, but I help to get you to the fruitful state of “confused but on a higher level”.
I have been thinking a lot about why I think confusion can be a good thing (and why most people think confusion is bad and should be avoided by all means in a professional setting). You are not confused when everything is in the place where it belongs, when you know what you have to do, to believe and to say. And a lot of people and organisations like this feeling of “everything in place” so much, that they won’t change anything, no matter how fast the world around them is moving and transforming. The more the world outside bombards you with new demands, the more important it is, to keep everything inside in the neat and usual order.
However, what gives you stability for a while, can make you so immobile that in the end you break under the heavy load of changes, because you have developed no flexibility to adapt to them.
Confusion is the puzzled realization: “Maybe the world is completely different from how I thought it was. Maybe my organisation works in ways, that I don’t even start to understand. Did I have it completely wrong?” That’s a painful feeling. The more you like security, the longer you have believed one thing, the more painful this is. But once this confusion sets in and you admit that you might not know it all, you have opened the door to learning new things about the world that you cannot even foresee. It’s not the kind of learning that follows a set curriculum, where some teacher pours well known facts about the world into your brain. You opened the door. Now let’s see who comes in and what they bring.
Drawing network maps with groups is one way to do this, because most people have strong beliefs about how the social settings they work in are structured. You can feel the amount of agitation in a group rising when they realize that other people disagree and that they are basically not talking about hard facts but about perceptions. While arguing about individual links, everyone learns a lot of details about the actual flows within the network and that’s great. But I think for a lot of participants the change of perspective and the confusion that it leads to is the more productive power.
Does this make sense? Do you have examples of constructive confusion? If so, what do you do, to confuse people?
Filed under: exploring new ideas