“BlackBerry” the Movie, released on May 12, 2023, tells the story of Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, the two men that charted the course of the spectacular rise and catastrophic demise of the world's first smartphone.
“BlackBerry” pays close attention to the details of what happened and explains important moments without being condensing. At the same time, it treats the characters and events with a scriptic freedom. But what struck me, as I watched the movie, as probably one of the last Blackberry owners in the theatre that day, was it reminds us that too many people and companies cling to a calcified long-term strategy completely confident that things will improve with just a little more time for the strategy to unfold.
One of the reasons I hear most often, as I coach executives, business owners and individuals, for this hesitation to change or progress is the confusion between certainty and clarity.
When making a decision, we reach certainty when we have all the necessary information available to us and know the best choice for us, beyond any reasonable doubt. Needless to say, certainty is rare.
In contrast, clarity comes when we know what information we have at our disposal, we know what degree of uncertainty we are working with, and we have a sense of the best choice. Rather than giving us perfect confidence, clarity simply points us toward the best decision based on the incomplete information we have.
Knowing this distinction is important – because it helps us Avoid Decision Paralysis
Imagine you’re lost and reach a fork in the road. You can turn left or right, and you have little reason to know which way to go. Certainty is impossible—you probably won’t realize which direction is correct just by sitting at the intersection waiting for an epiphany. Clarity, however, is achievable; simply accept that you cannot know which way to go and pick a direction as best you can based on the reasoned information you have at that moment.
If you can summon the will to choose, you’ll discover that, once you’re moving, you may see a landmark, road sign, or some other indication of whether you made the right turn. Plus, you can always change course later if you realize you’ve picked the wrong direction.
Achieving certainty often requires more information than we have available. And, in many cases, the worst thing we can do is avoid deciding until we are certain we are right - that is Decision Paralysis. Instead, we have to gain clarity based on what we know, and what we don’t.
No one wants to be proven wrong. But, in many cases, being unwilling to make and commit to a decision is more damaging than making the wrong decision and course-correcting later.
Plus, being wrong, and learning from that mistake, helps us make better choices in the future. The path clarity gives us isn’t always straight, but it is often better than staying frozen in a paralysis at a decision point, waiting for certainty.
The movie Blackberry reminds us of the company that reshaped the telecommunications landscape is destroyed seemingly overnight by the advent of the iPhone, a development that catches Blackberry totally off guard. If you’re looking for an easy answer as to how that happened, BlackBerry doesn’t have one for you. It boils down to hubris yes, but also the inability to be prepared for the next evolution of the technology they innovated because they wanted certainty over clarity and gave into Decision Paralysis.
The last few episodes of our podcast "You Can Make It So", encourage you to consider the value of Agile Decision Making - a method that helps avoid Decision Paralysis and to filter certainty over clarity
Episode 66 got us started with adefinition of clarity and how to avoid Decision Paralysis. It gave us a peak into the elements of Agile Decision-Making
Episode 67 we unpacked the elements of Agile Decision-Making
Episode 68 asked are you always running out of time, feeling overwhelmed or stressed out by an endlessto-do list? Does this shake your confidence & make you doubt your clarity, let alone certitude, in what you should do next?
Episode 69 One of the most challenging elements to Thriving is having the confidence to do so. As we continue to pathway to a better understanding of clarity and certitude, and growing in Agile Decision Making, let's tackle the need to understand that Confidence comes from experience.
Episode 70 - You might have Clarity. You may have Certitude. You may possess Confidence, but do you have Courage? As we finish our understanding of Agile Decision Making, find out in this episode.
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