“I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers … Live the questions now.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
The health and economic emergencies brought by the spread of COVID-19 present business leaders with twin challenges, equally urgent: They must manage their organizations in crisis while simultaneously reimagining their companies at a time of heightened competition, social discord, and unrelenting uncertainty.
In other words, leaders are being called on to engage in a new and extremely challenging kind of dual thinking—to live the questions now, while simultaneously developing answers for an unknown and brutally complex future. We can think of no better tool for this important mindset shift than poetry.
Poetry requires of its readers a different way of thinking, more expansive than usual, more flexible, more nuanced; a way to tune in to undercurrents, accept ambiguity and the absence of answers—embrace lack of closure and relish complexity and uncertainty. A poem does not have one meaning, but many meanings, all in play simultaneously. It is therefore open to many—often conflicting—interpretations. Fine distinctions in language underpin the poem’s subtlety. We do not ask, what does this poem mean? We may ask, what does this poem amount to? Any answer arrived at will be provisional.