Puzzles and mysteries

Fascinating article in  by 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 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.

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

4 thoughts on “Puzzles and mysteries”

  1. Speaking of puzzles, I have been trying for two days to post a comment to the post entitled Motor Industry Public Relations Goes Green in 2007,but to no avail. I’m guessing this is because it contains hyperlinks- would that be a likely cause for rejection?

    Apologies for being off-topic, and do feel free delete this when appropriate. I would have emailed…

  2. Heather, thanks for the e-mails.

    I really want to say, especially in light of recent events, how useful the link to gladwell.com was for me. The NY piece is also thought-provoking. Thanks for pointing me to them.

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