Black and white thinking can appear decisive but often results in poor decisions and choices. Thinking in gray allows leaders to explore all the options and the implications and unintended consequences associated with a decision.
As anthropologist Ruth Benedict wisely pointed out, “The trouble with life isn’t that there is no answer, it’s that there are so many answers.” When you think in the gray, you spend the time to hear competing viewpoints and consider the risks connected with the choices that present themselves.
Gray thinking also requires leaders to stay in the question long enough to see the issues and nuances often hidden from view. The best leaders think in gray and then decide in black and white. Once gray thinking is complete, the choices should be clear and distinctive. Then, and only then, should the contrast of distinct options present themselves for selection. Remember that the color gray is created by mixing black and white. Go gray first.