It had to be a ghost story for Halloween and here’s why it’s relevant to you as leader and to your organisation:

If someone whom you judge to be credible and reliable told you that they had seen a ghost in the hallway of their house, what would you think? How might you react and what would you say? And why do the answers to these questions matter to you as a leader?

At The Vibrant Company, where our role is to help organisations solve challenges by enabling their leadership teams to see beyond their current collective field of vision, this is a fun but surprisingly powerful test. Sometimes the insight, the expansion in the field of vision comes from completely new information, but most frequently it arises from simply seeing that an assumption about what is known is actually not true. The ‘ghost question’ is a great way of illustrating this.

What was your reaction? How did you answer? If it helps, feel free to choose from:

  • This person clearly imagined the whole thing
  • It was a trick of the light or some other kind of optical illusion
  • It was a ghost
  • It was a being from a different dimension
  • Or feel free to insert your own explanation

The only ‘right’ answer simply has to be  ‘I don’t know’. Any other response can only ever be a belief. This example is a provocative one because we tend to have so much conditioning about what can and cannot be true. We can all have opinions and theories, but in this case it is impossible that we could know for sure. Here’s why that matters: in the course of our work and perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, we see a strong correlation between the extent to which leaders are comfortable operating in ambiguity and the overall success of their organisation. The ability to hold our hypotheses lightly enables us to move forwards, but with openness and curiosity. It prevents us from building false walls which limit our learning and seduce us into relying on unsafe assumptions.

Being clear and okay about what you don’t know is critical for navigating change and uncertainty and it gives you a massive advantage over your counterparts who are (innocently) intent on forcing certainty where it cannot be justified. The results of this are often far more scary than any ghost stories we have come across.

As Confucius said “true wisdom is knowing what you don’t know.” If you’re interested in exploring creative ways to expand your field of vision we would love to hear from you.

In the meantime, Happy Halloween!

We love to have vibrant conversations so if this blog post has made you curious, get in touch.

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