What the Super Bowl blackout can teach us about navigating ambiguity


Check the books, but I’d wager that no one bet on a blackout during the Super Bowl.

What happens in a moment of complete ambiguity, where a scheduled and somewhat scripted control room has to go off-script?

This clip from CBS News takes us behind the scenes of the moment, and also reveals an important lesson in how to improvise.

Improvisers are skilled at succinct communication, especially in the beginning of a scene where everything is unknown including our characters, their relationship, and the environment. We establish the platform of the scene so that our fellow players feel safe and knowledgeable about the basic parameters. We practice being obvious and clear to help make our partner look good. We work to speak a common language as quickly as possible.

Watch about 60 seconds into the clip as two crew members work to clarify what’s happening in “their scene”. The crew member’s partner twice asks, “what does that mean?” before his partner says the obvious…. we have a game delay.

In a moment of ambiguity, when emotions and adrenaline are high, those who are skilled at navigating ambiguity help make their partner look good by communicating in a way that helps get us out of the dark.

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