“Certainty is preposterous,” says Milton Glaser (TED Talk: Using Design to Make Things New (see below)). “Fundamentally, one cannot be certain about anything.” Glaser, who doesn’t shy away from speaking plainly, prefers a mindset that embraces ambiguity. For the 86-year-old, this is “a basic tool for perceiving reality” — and a driving force throughout his storied career.

Auditors frequently deal with uncertainties and ambiguous, hard to define problems- upon which we are asked to make fairly certain and unambiguous recommendations. We view this one of our professional challenges, a barrier to increased efficiency and the full realization of agency and program missions. But can it also be seen as an opportunity for developing a much deeper understanding of complex topics, or even as an avenue for necessary change?

In the TED talk below, celebrated graphic designer Milton Glaser discusses using the ambiguities surrounding a historical subject to create a series of paintings that take a unique perspective on that subject. Read Tom Roston’s article about the TED talk here, or watch for yourself below: