Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Dancing with Ambiguity

Melani Allen's webpage; Dealing with ambiguity and developing resilience describes ambiguous situations as;

New - Having unfamiliar cues or precedents
Complex - Having a great number of cues and/or stakeholder interests
Insoluble - Ones that can’t be solved in the usual ways.

The last one particularly brought to mind the answer to the question of what types of problems Design Thinking works best on; WICKED.

In order to really "solve" a problem you need to understand enough about it to develop a solution which does more good than harm. The trouble is, most of the time we don't know everything we need to know and there is some sort of limit to the time and money that can be expended figuring things out.

The other huge issue is that other people are usually involved in the situation, so not only do we have to consider the factors which are related to inanimate stuff, but we also have humans in the mix. This can be particularly difficult if the available pool of "soft skills" is limited.

As a designer - or Design Thinker - your primary tasks are to learn and act to effect a change. The things you have to learn vary depending on the circumstances, but generally fall into one of two broad catagories; Things that have to do with animate (people) or inanimate objects (stuff).

Moreover, if you intend to get others involved in the process, its very important to know what their skills and attitude are in regard to ambiguity and effecting change.

Melanie lists a handful important traits with a common root;
  • The ability to choose and act without knowing everything. (Just enough to try)
  • The ability to change plans, tasks and activities quickly and smoothly. (Plans B to Z)
  • The ability to tolerate and be comfortable with risk and uncertainty. (Learning... to fail)
The question is; How can you know who does or doesn't have these skills? (Including yourself.)

Up Next; The Power of Points of View

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