Since joining the world of consulting I’ve learnt a highly valued skill is the ability to navigate ambiguity.
When dealing with big complex questions it’s so easy to get lost, or to attempt to find too many answers which don’t actually provide much value and simply exhaust your resources in the process.
I think anyone who has worked in digital for a while has at least some innate skill and comfort with dealing with the unknown, but lots of people don’t and so it’s singled out as something that differentiates a good consultant.
Good news is there are a number of different approaches you can use to structure a problem and prioritise the most useful answers to seek out. For example:
- Root cause (or problem framing) trees and driver trees are useful in breaking down a problem or set of factors.
- System thinking helps form a shared view of the interconnecting influences which could be investigated further
- Design thinking gets you back to ‘basics’ in examining behaviour of the actual stakeholders to identify the real pains felt, and gains sought.
- Sometimes it’s as simple as forming a set of hypotheses and prioritising these in a trusty 2by2 grid of ‘uncertainty’ against ease of validating/testing.
Ultimately, what I’ve learnt is it’s easier to abstract to a level of clarity if you can helicopter above the detail, at least at first. Only when the key individuals share a common reference point, and therefore language around the problem, can you clearly navigate that pesky sea of ambiguity.
Hopefully that was useful – let me know!
I will also consider requests 🙂