Blog > The tyranny of the explicit

November 30, 2011

We probably all know someone who constantly plays the excuse card. There’s an intention, followed by an excuse…

You can pick an intention – commitment gap by the language: “I meant to go to the gym, but…”, “I wanted to support your proposal, but…”

When we’re working with businesses in workshops, one of our commonest suggestions is for people to commit. The difference between a workshop and other forms of meeting is that workshops require active participation. In other meeting formats it might be okay to be passive.

For some, committing is difficult. They appear to prefer to sit on the fence, hedging their bets until they see in which direction others might be heading, before making a decision.

What are the implications of this – in work and in life?

Keith Johnstone summarises what this often means with one of my favourite quotes from his book Impro (1989) pp 92.

“There are people who prefer to say ‘Yes’, and there are people who prefer to say ‘No’. Those who say ‘Yes’ are rewarded by the adventures they have, and those who say ‘No’ are rewarded by the safety they attain.”

We see this when playing improv games. Those seemingly innocuous games can reveal so much, because how you play the game is how you play. And that translates to how you behave at work too.

Building your commitment muscle takes a leap of faith, often into the unknown. If you need to know what it will be like before you commit (which on the face of it seems reasonable) you will be forever stuck in what Johnnie and I refer to as the Tyranny of the Explicit – needing to know yet more information before acting.

Trailblazers, leaders, innovators all share a willingness to commit without knowing the outcome, without knowing if it will be worth it, without having done a risk analysis. They bust free of the Tyranny of the Explicit.

This is one of the tyrannies we’ve picked as coatpegs on which to hang conversations about improvisation and work. And we decided to get them illustrated as you can see here. (It’s by a lovely guy called Milan Colovic – here’s his page on elance, where Johnnie found him).

Johnnie has written about the Tyranny of Effort here.

Share post on social media: