Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Dealing with Ambiguity

One of the things I tell a lot of people as they grow in organizations is that they need to be able to deal with ambiguity.

When you are junior, life is easier. Oh sure there is dog work to do and that can be hard, but at the end of the day you are more or less told what to do; and when you are done, you’re done. But then you get promoted and suddenly things are not that simple. You don’t know if you are doing well or not, you’re not sure if your decisions are correct or not, you don’t have perfect information but people demand answers, sometimes you’re not even quite sure what you’re supposed to be doing !

And this drives people crazy, it can be maddening. But that is exactly the job !

You’re supposed to be dealing with ambiguity, you are supposed to be able to take decisions even as you deal with imperfect information, you need to move forward even if you are not sure exactly how – and you’re supposed to do all this with good grace, without fear and without remorse.

Here’s a video of one of my favorite physicists Feynman talking about something similar – about not being afraid of not knowing. Wise words.

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