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  • Writer's pictureRobert Stevenson

The Ambiguity Of Right Answers


Robert Stevenson Blog Photo - Perspective

Our educational system is geared toward teaching us to find the “Right Answer.” By the time a student finishes college, they have taken over 2,500 tests, quizzes, and exams all fixated upon finding out if they know the right answer: the one and only possible answer. But, when we get out into the business world, we find there could be several different answers to solving a problem.


We have all found, through our experiences, that life is ambiguous; there are many “Right” answers depending upon what we are trying to fix, accomplish, or create. I know it is safe to say that my perspective of how “I” see things is not the “ONLY” perspective out there. Years ago, I heard an example of a high school teacher drawing a simple dot on a chalk board and then asking his students what it was. They thought for a moment, and one stated, “It’s a dot on a chalk board.” Every student in the class seemed okay with the answer: it was logical and apparently the obvious answer.

The teacher then told his students that the day before he did the same exercise for kindergartner students and they thought of over fifty different things it could possibly be: a star, a pebble, a squashed bug, an owl’s eye, a rotten egg, the top of a telephone pole, etc., etc. I particularly like “a rotten egg”. Not just an egg … but a “rotten one” at that.


They let their imaginations wonder and out popped fifty different possibilities. They hadn’t spent 10 years in our educational system, getting programmed that there is only one possible answer. They weren’t fearful of giving the wrong answer. They didn’t stop when one person gave their answer. They kept looking for all the possible answers.


Finding answers has a lot to do with how you’ve been programmed, raised, where you lived, traditions in your family, education or lack there-of, experiences you have lived through, were you rich or poor, old parents, young parents, or no parents. These and many more can certainly change your perspective on how you see things; even what time of the day you wake up. Example:


A teacher handed out a sheet of paper with the outline of a house, trees, flowers, clouds, and sky. She told her students to color-in everything using the appropriate crayon colors. The teacher failed one of the students, telling her, “Grass is green not gray, and the sky is blue not yellow. Your colors are all wrong.” The child said in her defense, “That’s how it looks to me when I wake-up and watch the sunrise.” Ouch. The teacher didn’t see that perspective coming.

French philosopher Emilé Chartier once stated: “Nothing is more dangerous than an idea, when it’s the only one you have.” The best way to fix a problem is to search for lots of ideas. None of them may be completely right, but parts of each idea could all have merit, and when used together, you end up with a “SUPER” solution. Always remember, the same line of thoughts that got you into the problem will not get you out of it. Or as Albert Einstein put it … "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."


There are many ways to find solutions … ask “what if”, break the rules, think of an absurd way to do it. Just know this … if you stop looking the moment you come up with one answer, you are making a huge mistake.


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