Recently, a dear friend highlighted the idea of “strong opinions, loosely held”. It made me wonder about the many things we have a “strong” idea about and how these can keep locked in. That’s where the loosely held comes in, as it is an invitation to let go when something comes up and contradicts whatever it is we are holding on to.
Researching the web a bit allowed to see how broad the understanding of such a quote may become. There are people rejecting the idea as they’ve experienced people sharing strong opinions mainly as people sharing bombastic, and groundless, ideas. For them the idea is about being fast, get out an idea, and see the reactions.
For others, a strong opinion involves enough work to come to a conclusion. A conclusion that describes what one is standing for. Holding such an idea loosely then isn’t about one’s opinion needing to change but about the context of that opinion to be on the move. It is acknowledging that the world is constantly changing. That any opinion may have to change due to circumstances.
And then there is also the approach Paul Saffo developed. He is a forecaster exploring long-term technology trends and their impact on society. His approach to strong opinion thus is more about the desire to come to an as valid conclusion as possible. Using the paradox between strong and loosely held, or weakly held as he calls it, he designed a process. He starts the process with a conclusion based on his intuition to then seek to prove himself wrong. The idea is to engage himself in creative doubt. It becomes a process easing our ability to deal with uncertainty.
Taking this approach into teamwork transforms cooperation. What it does, is invite team members to disagree and share ideas based on their experience. It gives everyone a place to be seen and to raise one’s hand whenever there is a need to.
The essence of the idea that is common to all, is the willingness to live with change. That’s useful for anything we hold on too tightly to.