And now you’re probably asking yourself why ambiguity is such a big deal.
What is Ambiguity?So, what is ambiguity exactly and why does it have such a profound impact on our lives? Ambiguity is essentially a fancy word for uncertainty. It defines a situation that isn’t 100% clear, which could result in one task having two totally different perceptions and outcomes from two different people. It’s the idea that the world doesn’t exist in black and white and there could be different interpretations, different meanings, and different views on the same subject. Ambiguity is ever-present in our adult lives and until you master how to handle it, you may not realize success.
How Ambiguity Manifests Itself in the WorkplaceComing from a structured environment like college or an internship may make taking the leap into the world of work a little overwhelming. One of the main reasons that it feels that way is the ambiguity of today’s workplace. In school everything was structured for you — you were given a syllabus with explicit directions, a successful project outcome was an A and you were given guidelines on how to achieve that mark, and every word problem had an exclusive fixed way of being solved with a correct response.
But you discover quickly after entering your first job that real life isn’t manufactured the way education is.
The world of work is more ambiguous than ever before. Between technological advances that are changing the landscape of companies daily, a global pandemic that has shifted the way teams work together, and a Google search bar filled with the promise of a million and one solutions for one simple problem, how could it not be?
There are so many solutions. So many ways of doing things. So many points of view and opinions. Your manager won’t give explicit directions for every project; they’ll expect you to figure it out. You may get confused on what your role is as a newcomer to the team, but you’ll need to work through it and find your place.
How Ambiguity Can Affect Career Success and Personal GrowthAmbiguity can cause anxiety from not knowing what direction to take. It can breed self-doubt as you over analyze whether you’re doing the “right” thing and get stuck in analysis paralysis. But most importantly, it can help you grow.
It’s easy to default to giving up and deciding to move on because you think the grass will be greener on the other side — but it really isn’t. These ambiguous situations plague every workplace; it’s the nature of business these days. So, your real success will lie in mastering ambiguous situations, pursuing them with grit, and coming out on the other side even stronger.
For example, in terms of the COVID-19 crisis worldwide, Forbes did a piece exploring how those who were “ambiguity absorbers” were the emerging leaders who would come out on top in today’s workplace. They defined an ambiguity absorber as an individual who tackles ambiguity head on and rather than overanalyzing and waiting for direction, they determine direction and lead — regardless of whether they know for certain this is the “right” way to do things. This is how you embrace ambiguity and use it to your advantage to excel.
Embracing Ambiguity for Positive Professional and Personal OutcomesThe good news here is that there are many simple, streamlined ways you can embrace ambiguity and use it as an asset for yourself as you continue to grow both personally and professionally. A few tips that have helped NimblyWise students master ambiguous situations for success include:
- Pursuing daily tasks and projects with a conscious open-minded nature — don’t think there is only one possible solution or one set way of executing a task.
- Utilizing critical thinking skills to work through each phase of a project to evaluate which outcomes may be most beneficial for the team.
- Not being afraid to ask questions but listening and absorbing any relevant information before doing so; that way, you ask educated questions that will help you achieve your goals.