Fascinating article in The New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell that ranges from reflection on Enron, through analysis of Nazi propaganda to the importance of looking for clues in open communications. The thread is the difference between puzzles and mysteries, relating to whether there are insufficient facts or analysis:
Puzzles are “transmitter-dependent”; they turn on what we are told. Mysteries are “receiver dependent”; they turn on the skills of the listener
One post on Gladwell’s blog rebukes the author for confusing mysteries and puzzles – with the former involving a search for new facts (eg murder mystery) and the latter involving ingenuity or persistence to solve, but few/no new facts (eg Rubik’s cube).
Regardless of the side debate on semantics, there is a lot of relevance to public relations here – not least in terms of crisis and issues management. Do we look at solutions simply requiring more information, ie communicate more? Or are listening and reflective skills (both inside and outside the organisation) required to understand and address modern, complex challenges?
As we are about to move into the more practical aspects of the CIPR Diploma and Advanced Certificate courses – I’ll be challenging the students to think about whether the assignment case study scenarios present them with puzzles or mysteries.