ilm - ambiguity

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    LeadingthroughAmbiguitybyDavidAdkinsMakingdecisionsandthrivingwithoutalltheinformation.

    Introduction Ambiguity is increasing in our ever-changing World. The pace of change is exponential and although we have more resources at our fingertips, there is less confidence in the information and fewer tangible rocks to hold on to in our ethically changing society. Leaders in have to make decisions without all the knowledge, and to stay ahead of competition decisions need to be made faster and with more conviction than ever. Ambiguity drives the need for good leadership (Williams, 2013) as intuitively, the less defined, ambiguous tasks naturally rise up organisations (Cook, n.d.). Indeed, where there is no uncertainty there is no need for leadership. Post the Cold War the US military began to describe the more Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous world using the VUCA model (Stiehm, 2010), since brought into business leadership training. Ambiguity is different to uncertainty, although they are commonly used interchangeably. Ambiguity being where little is known about the situation nor the potential effect of your actions, where uncertainty is where your knowledge of the situation is much higher, but the effect of your potential actions is still unpredictable (see Figure 1).

    Definition of Ambiguity: perceived insufficiency of information regarding a particular stimulus or decision context (McLain, 1993)

    Much research has been undertaken into leaders tolerance for ambiguity, frequently finding an increased tolerance for ambiguity positively influences leadership performance (Herman, et al., 2010). Through further primary research undertaken with 124 respondents across all organisational levels, this paper looks to understand what affects tolerance for ambiguity, providing advice on how future leaders can improve in this vital skill and lead teams through Ambiguity using a five-step model.

    Tolerance for Ambiguity (TA), being the tendency to perceive ambiguous situations as desirable (Budner, 1962)

    Research has shown that knowing you are loved and having certainty in relationship drastically increases Humans ability to cope with traumas. Jesus provides Christians with the deepest love and the most important relationship, creating certainty and giving Christians security in times of ambiguity. This paper showcases the results of primary research and provides a five stage model to deal with, and thrive in, ambiguity developed from the findings.

  • Independent Learning Module: Leading through Ambiguity

    David Adkins, 27th June 2016

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    Figure 1: What VUCA Means for you

    Courtesy of Harvard Business Review (Bennett & Lemoine, 2014)

  • Independent Learning Module: Leading through Ambiguity

    David Adkins, 27th June 2016

    3

    Contents Introduction..................................................................................................................................1

    Contents........................................................................................................................................3

    Figures...........................................................................................................................................3

    Research:ToleranceofAmbiguity...............................................................................................4ImpactofAmbiguity...............................................................................................................................4ResearchFindings...................................................................................................................................4

    Education...........................................................................................................................................5AgeandGender.................................................................................................................................6JobSector...........................................................................................................................................7LevelofSeniority................................................................................................................................8

    5StepModelforAmbiguity.........................................................................................................9Step1:Discern.....................................................................................................................................10Step2:DecideStrategy........................................................................................................................12Step3:ConductExperiments...............................................................................................................13Step4:AssessandAdapt.....................................................................................................................14Step5:CelebrateDividends.................................................................................................................15RepeattheCycle..................................................................................................................................15

    Conclusion...................................................................................................................................16

    AppendixA:SurveyDetails.........................................................................................................19

    Figures Figure1:WhatVUCAMeansforyou........................................................................................2Figure2:ToleranceofAmbiguityResearch-LevelofEducation................................................5Figure3:ToleranceofAmbiguityResearch-Age........................................................................6Figure4:ToleranceofAmbiguityResearchAgeandGender...................................................6Figure5:ToleranceofAmbiguityResearch-JobSector.............................................................7Figure6:ToleranceofAmbiguityResearch-LevelofSeniority..................................................8Figure7:FiveStepModelforDealingwithAmbiguity................................................................9Figure8:KnownsandUnknownsAnalysisTemplate.................................................................10Figure9:TheRicardodosSantosValueofBusinessExperimentsFormula..............................13

  • Independent Learning Module: Leading through Ambiguity

    David Adkins, 27th June 2016

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    Research: Tolerance of Ambiguity Understanding the impact of ambiguity and how it affects the decisions you make. Impact of Ambiguity Ambiguity drives our Amygdala into fight or flight mode, this primal part of the brains response is regularly triggered in modern business. A Neuroeconomist researched the decision making of subjects as they made increasingly uncertain bets, the less information they had to go on, the more irrational and erratic their decisions became (Bradberry, 2015). Employees, will do what they are most comfortable doing in order to feel as if they are contributing something appropriate (Kail, 2011). Ambiguity in teams can create hesitation as even a familiar path doesnt feel like it will create meaningful output. Leaders need to build the boundaries for problem solving, providing clear direction, synchronising the teams efforts while continually communicating adjustments. Leaders are susceptible to either over-generalising in their communication, providing a distinct lack of clarity, or over-compensating by faking it and making others feel confident, even if theres no strong basis for their judgement. Research Findings Education level has a small but causal impact on our ability to tolerate ambiguity (Figure 2), Men generally have a higher tolerance for ambiguous situations than Women and Age significantly affects our ability to tolerate ambiguity (Figure 3). These are the summarized results of a survey of 124 cross-industry respondents. The assessment undertaken provides a score for each respondents tolerance of ambiguity (TA) using the methodology updated by Herman (Herman, et al., 2010) and based on Budners original research (Budner, 1962). Results have been averaged and analysed below. The average score over all respondents was 30.49, with lower scores showing a higher tolerance (please note graphs are inverted).

  • Independent Learning Module: Leading through Ambiguity

    David Adkins, 27th June 2016

    5

    Education A small increase in tolerance for ambiguity with increased education is found, with PhD level qualifications or above providing a significant increase. Education is designed to drive the student into greater independence in their learning at each level, culminating in academia where students are independently driving research into previously un-examined areas. This has however driven an estimated 53% of postgraduates to have Mental health issues (Wilcox, 2014). I felt unsupported, isolated and adrift in uncertainty. (Walker, 2015). The 72.9% of students that successfully complete PhDs (Jump, 2013) therefore have potentially suffered immensely, but significantly learnt from their experience and expanded their ability to tolerate ambiguity. To safely increase tolerance for ambiguity, Leaders should expose themselves to uncertain and ambiguous issues and actively choose to undertake exploratory projects, but with mentorship, support, and following a structured process such as this papers 5-step process. Liberal Arts degrees tend to generate an increased tolerance of ambiguity compared to STEM subjects, in fact a third of all Fortune 500 CEOs have liberal arts degrees (Ray, 2013), (Green, 2015).

    Figure 2