From “By The Book” To “A Creative Art”

 Science can assist us in becoming more skillful choosers,                                                             but at its core, choice remains an art.   Sheena Iyengar

The theme of this blog is that decision making has become a creative art and that certainty is the antithesis of creativity. My point is that decision making and certainty are incompatible. I believe deciding with uncertainty is unavoidable.

Creative Decision Making, Using Positive Uncertainty was the title of my 1991 book and the theme of my writing since. Iyengar’s quote above is one of my all-time favorites. It is from her book, The Art of Choosing,2010. Science, indeed, has helped us become more skillful choosers. In 1991, decision making was considered to be scientific, highly rational, “by the book”. By 2010 it was agreed that total rational choosing is unlikely. I believe decision making now and in the future needs to be considered a creative art.

Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties. Erich Fromm

What are the roles of creativity and uncertainty in decision making? To decide is to have a choice, which means there are at least two possible options to choose from and several possible outcomes with several probabilities. Here is an opportunity for creative deciding. Because  there is uncertainty. If there was only one option, one outcome, and one possibility, there would be no decision and no uncertainty.

My reasons for supporting decision making as a creative art is in the definitions: Creative: involving a lot of imagination and new ideas: resulting from originality,  thought, expression. Art: A skill arising from the exercise of intuitive faculties; the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination. Our decisions are the result of all the above. Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert comic strip, explains creativity and art: Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.

What all of this says to me, of course, is how important positive uncertainty is today. And how important it will be in the future. I say positive uncertainty because uncertainty is usually considered negative. To be uncertain is considered to be unsure, not knowing, wishy-washy, even dumb. And I consider certainty to be negative because it results in closed-mindedness. Certainty means inevitable; and doesn’t lead to questions or creativity. Creativity comes from an open, inquiring, changing mind. You don’t change your mind if you are certain.

Creative choice today is required because we now know that rational decision making is unusual or impossible. Creativity is like inventiveness, originality, imagination. Creativity is intelligence having fun, Albert Einstein. Choosing is something to enjoy, and life is full of choices, unless you are certain.

The future of decision making will continue to be full of creative choosing with uncertainty. The question is, will it be full of questions?

Inquiry is fatal to certainty, Will Durant.

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