Leaving it unsolved

I like impressionist paintings. I find them more engaging than paintings that are completely realistic. But why is that the case?

Our minds are problem solving machines. Every game, riddle, puzzle and brainteaser is an unsolved problem that the mind leaps towards resolving. For a problem to exist, it needs constraints – rules and boundaries. But for a problem to be unsolved, it requires just the right amount of ambiguity and freedom.

Most movies don’t live up to the books they are based on (‘Never judge a book by its movie’). This is because a book provides us enough detail to visualize what happens to the characters, but also leaves things ambiguous enough for us to fill in several details.

A good manager provides instructions with the right amount of detail – with enough direction that they work towards a common goal, but with enough leeway for each team member to be creative and personal.

Impressionist paintings give us ‘impressions’ of real world objects, but leave out the details so that we can fill them in with our imagination.

The most exciting problems come with just the right amount of detail. In the process, they make us co-creators in the solution.

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