Ambiguity and uncertainty cause real problems

Uncertainty & ambiguity cause real problems in organisations. From fear and procrastination to unwillingness & resistance to change. Show people how to deal with them and they become change agents.

The big problem with uncertainty and ambiguity is the effect they have on people and organisations. From the research I conducted (The Ambiguity Advantage: What great leaders are great at, Published by Palgrave Macmillian) when I was head of department at Cranfield University it was found that people tend to fall into four sets or modes of responses when faced with uncertain or ambiguous situations or circumstances. Virtually every change situation contains levels of uncertainty and ambiguity largely because it is impossible to really see where the change is going, what route it will take, when it will sped up or slow down or when it will end - if it ever does.

The vast majority of people dislike uncertainty and ambiguity and as a consequence spend a lot of time either in some form or denial, not noticing the change until it gets too big to miss, engaging in flight behaviour, freezing and being unable to operate with any degree of competency, getting aggressive or stressed. Change programmes in organisations are notorious for significantly increasing the levels of stress related sick leave an organisation suffers from which exacerbates the situation for everyone else.

There is a small percentage of the population (about 2%) who are really comfortable in such situations and are really the masters of ambiguity and uncertainty and use situations such as change to uncover real opportunities. They usually see the change before anyone else, remain wholly positive during change situations, are often creative and discover what the new rules of the game are before anyone else. In short they gain the advantage before anyone else.

We are the masters of developing winning attitudes with change, uncertainty and ambiguity.

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Wilkinson D.J. (2006) The Ambiguity Advantage: What great leaders are great at. London. Palgrave Macmillian.