Embrace Ambiguity


Title is so ambiguous, that I thought I will keep it this way.

Let me start with defining Ambiguity. [Ambi] as a term means Two, two meanings. A statement interpreted in 2 different ways, it leads to ambiguity. Ambiguity is not uncertainty. Uncertainty is more of things we cannot deduce or where it can lead us to. But Ambiguity is more of, possibility of admitting more than one interpretation.

Statements like “Something went wrong in the system”, “I need you to deliver this in a resonable amount of time”, “We need to build a better system”. You might have come across these statements from customer or when you read reviews. These kind of sentences are open for interpretations.

Why would someone say like this ? We don’t express ourselves better. We can’t know what we want, we can’t articulate. Business might say, “System is too complex to use, we need a better one”, and we don’t know what part of the system is hard. Putting your thoughts into words is a learned art. Experienced personals are good in removing ambiguity. They choose words that balances between being superficial and lots of detail

Lot of positions in enterprise exist to remove ambiguity and communicate to stakeholders. Higher you are in Organization chart, more you are dealing with ambiguity.

One important idea in removing ambiguity is, focusing more of “WHY” aspect than “WHAT”. When you get caught up in details, ability to switch gears to get higher level perspective is a key aspect.

How to untangle the Ambiguity ?

It always starts with understanding the context of the problem we are trying to solve. You can start ask questions like, Why are we doing this ? Why do we need this ? Why we did this way ?

All these questions will help in giving you a reason for doing something in the first place. Then you move on to understanding “What” based questions and so on..

Engage in productive discussions by,

  • Embracing Collaboration
  • Listening without judgement
  • Listening to understand their viewpoint
  • Bringing out area of ambivalence
  • Expressing sense of purpose and documenting the understanding
  • Sharing knowledge with transparency

Look at the whole picture

Primary goal here is to see patterns and connect dots. You might have travelled bit into clearing the ambiguity. Now you start to look back and find patterns. You do them by looking back into the past conversations and what you have learnt so far. This you can think of as Reverse Engineering an idea.

Ask more questions

Good thinking determines the quality of life. Good thinking comes through with good questions. Without questions, we fail to focus on significant ideas and uncover real need. A good question generate more questions. This will stimulate new ways to approach and brings in new perspective.

questions image

Follow up

You might not have all the right questions when you encounter a subject or idea first time. As mentioned before, listening is a key skill to soak up all you encounter and digest them. But once you have time to focus, you should read up on the subject more and do your part of research. Get all help you can. Experts, books, blog, meetup are some avenues. After you dig through the subject, your follow up questions will now be more helpful to clear up ambiguity.

Break Assumptions

Avoiding assumptions. Questioning helps us to recognize gaps in our understanding. It opens up transparent communications and gain more insights. Key underlining aspect here is transparency. More transparency leads to more information, which then leads us to recognize accuracy.

Ambiguity is not something to avoid, rather something you should embrace. Its our royal way into creativity. Ambiguity is in our minds and not outside.

You see the world like not how it is , but how you are.

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