In the creativity literature, a high ambiguity tolerance is associated with creativity. So if you’re creative, you’re supposed to move on a vague problem without feeling too confused. But apparently I haven’t figured out how this works yet. In my experience, even creative people who can deal with vagueness still need to understand the problem they’re solving.
The issue here is communication. If a CEO has a vague problem, how can the creatives at the agency know they’re solving the right problem? In other words, if the CEO can’t be specific about the problem, then how can the creatives know (regardless of their unfounded confidence) if they’re solving the problem that still only exists in the CEO’s head?
This is why we have strategists at agencies. Because the communication problem needs to be clarified before there can be any accountability for the agency creatives and for the CEO.
The strategy/planning process involves finding out what the real communication problem is, meaning it often goes to the core of the organization. For instance, maybe the mission statement isn’t specific enough to provide real leadership for the organization. Maybe the CEO needs to figure out how to express vision to employees. Once these things are exposed and agreed upon, agency planners often solve more problems than just advertising.
But the key is to find the problem. And good strategists/planners, even with the vaguest problems, know how to start asking questions to dig deep into the nebula and start finding answers.
Ambiguity tolerance may be good, because it can take away the fear of difficult-to-understand problems. But nobody should stay ignorant of the problem in the name of creativity. To do so would show a lack of understanding of the creative process.