A foggy day (as it happens, in London town) seems like a good day to start a blog series dealing with ‘knitting fog’ and, by a happy coincidence, an email arrived with the famous quote from self-help guru Susan Jeffers: ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. This made me realise that I had been harbouring a degree of fear about starting this, so here goes…
Fear of fog
It may be an unusual thing to say but I rather like fog, despite having had a number of unpleasant and with hindsight quite risky experiences driving in it over the years. I like its transformational effect on a familiar landscape and the way it quietens and reduces the world around you. But in general – and probably genetically – we’re conditioned to be wary of fog: in the past the fog would have given cover to all kinds of nefarious activity and, more basically, if you’re trying to go anywhere in fog you need to take extra care. Horror supremo John Carpenter created a whole film on this topic so there’s clearly mileage in it (although I fell asleep watching it late one night so I can’t fully comment on its power).
Knitting fog – what is it?
The intention of this series is to write about – and illuminate – the kind of ambiguous problem that crops up in the business world (I’m mainly going to focus on business and leave ambiguous personal problems to the self-help gurus) and, simplistically, it can be defined as being the kind of situation where the phrase ‘you might as well try to knit fog’ is a suitable metaphor. However, whilst my approach to knitting fog is to start by getting a bit more comfortable with ambiguity I think a bit more detail might just help – I define knitting fog situations as those where
1) the outcome is important to our enterprise (‘business critical’)
2) there are a number of ‘known unknowns’ which are difficult to quantify
3) there are a number of ‘unknown unknowns’
4) one or more of the above is outside of our control
Susan Jeffers promoted the idea of positive affirmation to push through fears and other negative emotion and move to personal change and growth. Thinking about this I realised that I could quite quickly jot down ten reasons why setting up this website and writing something for it was a bad idea. You may be able to also jot down ten reasons why, but if you do please don’t share just yet! I’m choosing to ignore this inner critic – and my inner projection of the external critics – and ‘do it anyway’.
Embrace the fog – and start knitting
The same approach applies to the situations that knitting fog deals with. In order to make some sense out of a difficult and ambiguous situation and, importantly, move towards decisions and effective action we first of all have to acknowledge that the situation is difficult and ambiguous and, for now at least, that’s OK. The next step is to determine the priority of de-fogging the situation. It might be something that is OK to remain ambiguous for a while, whilst more pressing short-term issues get dealt with, or it’s the one thing that’s holding up dealing with pressing issues. Getting a – usually collective – sense of priority is an issue I’ll explore in more depth later on but let’s assume the issue is a priority and you need to take action the next step is to start knitting the fog into something more manageable and actionable. How you do this will be the subject of future posts on this topic.