Speak of resolutions in this season, and one thinks of those backbone-stiffening intentions with which we traditionally enter a new year. We resolve to do things; things recognised, even acknowledged, but previously undone. We firm our minds towards some new, and usually improving, task.
But resolution can also mean that we wish to resolve things already partly done, to tidy up the loose threads that are hanging over, perhaps, from the old year; the unfinished business of before. If this is a time of year for stock-taking, for looking backward and forward at once, both lines of sight can be epitomised in that single word – resolution.
My resolve today, as I look out over Edinburgh rooftops to Fife, a crumpled, snowy counterpane, is to celebrate the potential for ambiguity, the multiplicity of meaning that helps make our language so rich, while seemingly causing the pen to tremble in so many business writers’ hands.
The business world is a literal one where things must say precisely what they mean, and ambiguity is a form of suicide. Unless things are made factually explicit, delineated in all their fullness with a cold chisel in hard stone, the poor reader’s feeble mind will wander off and get lost in the graveyard. This fear ignores the critical fact that, as with body language so with written language, we are hard-wired to ‘get it’, to read the silences, interpret the things unsaid, peer into the cracks and sift through the ambiguities. Were it otherwise we would have been trampled by mammoths a long, long time ago.
Which brings me back to a point I’ve often made before: that organisations can afford to sound much more like people than they think – flawed, uncertain and, dare I say it, unresolved. We’ll believe them and even like them all the more for it. Happy New Year!