We all have to face ambiguity, even if we don’t want to. And while few of us actually become comfortable with it, we can employ strategies that help us make it at least bearable.
The ever-faster spinning of our business lives makes the soft skill of dealing with ambiguity one most of us must face in our professional lives more and more. Managers and leaders face it constantly. The farther you go in your career, the less clear things become.
Getting comfortable with ambiguity is an essential business skill and one that many entrepreneurs especially struggle with.
We Long For Control
Most of us want to control as much of our lives as possible – what we eat, who we spend time with, how much sleep we get, where we live, what car we drive, how we will retire. And for the most part, we have control over those things; most of them are functions of our choices.
Business is different. We can make the right choices and derive a bad result because our actions are only part of the equation. Business is about working with, for and against other people and companies. They do what’s right for them, or at least what they think serves them best. We do what’s best for us. The two cannot always coincide. As a result, we find uncertainty and ambiguity permeating our business ventures all the time.
Huge Decisions Riddled With Ambiguity
Here’s a common example: A company creates a product or service and tries to set a price. The company struggles to identify the right price. They assess the competition. They assess people’s views on the product or service. They make their best guess. But if they are wrong, the consequences can be enormous. A product or service that could make a difference in people’s lives fails because it’s price is too high or too low.
Pricing is just one area of uncertainty. What if the marketing message is unclear? The website looks off? The name is wrong? The benefits don’t resonate with the ideal customer? Or if people aren’t ready yet to address this problem in their lives?
Businesses face this challenge everyday. It’s a reality.
Strategies For Combatting Uncertainty
Finding strategies to address our feelings surrounding ambiguity can help greatly.
Here are four hints for combatting the fears that arise with ambiguity, drawn from a discussion I had with Dr. Tobin Porterfield, on our Serious Soft Skills Podcast.
- Accept that ambiguity is real. Easy choices don’t always exist. Taking action, even if it’s the wrong action, will bring you one or more steps closer to your goal.
- Keep a compass. Know what you are trying to accomplish and keep true to it. People, circumstances, finances and other factors will
- Call in the reinforcements. Find people and other sources of information and support that are solid no matter what else is happening.
- Heed the signs. When things appear to be faltering, recognize it and react. Remember, inaction is the enemy of any success. A course adjustment, even if it takes you farther from your intended target, still provides you valuable insight that can help the next course correction or the one after that put you back on track.
The more we fight ambiguity, the more a toll it takes on us and our plans. Facing the reality that is ambiguity head-on can keep you moving toward your goals, when others are getting sidelined worrying about things they can never control.