How do we respond to ambiguity?

Let's imagine a meeting in a large company. At the top of the agenda: a new competitor is working on a solution with completely new technology. Market maturity is imminent. The need for action becomes obvious, but the situation is unclear. It is not clear to all involved what the world will look like in 2-3 years. Is the technology really ready for the market, are the new solutions attractive enough to create demand, can our company master the new technology? What strategy promises future success? Should we invest in the new technology or would it be better to make our technology even more mature, efficient and economical? Entire industries or even economic areas are currently in this situation. And it is not only technologies, but also business models or lifestyles that are at stake.

Ambiguity is everywhere. When it is not clear how the situation can develop, when previous experience is no longer helpful, when there are different equally valid ways of solving a problem but the outcome is uncertain, then this is an ambiguous situation.

How do you react to this, how does your team react? Tackle it or ignore it?

People react differently to new challenges:

Person 1

"Why do we have to do anything?
The new technology will certainly not catch on. We have mastered our proven technology, the new one is too risky. We should continue to concentrate on our development plan. After that, we may be able to devote ourselves to new topics. "

Person 2

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves. We should first be clear about what this means for us. We can hire consultants to look at different aspects of the technology and develop a recommendation for us.

Person 3

"Times are changing and we need to be prepared! We should set up a team to develop ideas in a workshop. This will ensure that we have a common understanding and know what to do next."

Person 4

"Wouldn't it be great if we used this as an opportunity to think about our strategy?
If we open ourselves up to the idea, there may be more potential in it than we previously realized. If we see it as an opportunity, we can set up various experiments and learn from them quickly."

What are the thinking patterns behind these different reactions?
We see four different preferences for dealing with ambiguity.

Type 1: Avoid ambiguity

Some people avoid ambiguity and feel safe when they continue to focus on the familiar and "business as usual". 

They ignore ambiguity, consciously or unconsciously, for example by...

  • deny
  • keep busy and distracted 
  • get lost in details

They prefer "the way it has always been done" with clear rules and hierarchies.

Type 2: Tolerate ambiguity

Some people tolerate ambiguity by trying to control it. 

They are aware of ambiguity but focus on reducing it, for example by...

  • Collectmore information
  • Takecontrol measures
  • Minimise risks

They prefer to do "the right thing" with as little risk as possible.

Type 3: Accept ambiguity

Some people accept ambiguity and understand that you have to work in it and not around it.

They explore ambiguity but tend to act reactively, for example by...

  • Adapt tochange
  • Exploreconsequences
  • Aim for common understanding

They prefer to explore new solutions and work on them together.

Type 4: Seeking ambiguity

Some people seek ambiguity because they know they can create new worlds in it.

They enjoy ambiguity as an opportunity to learn and develop new possibilities, for example through ...

  • Take risks 
  • Move boundaries
  • Master complexity

They shape impactful change and move things forward in a pragmatic way.
They are #AmbiguityActivists.

How do we use ambiguity?


Ambiguity describes the field of tension in which problems are delicate, solutions are blurred and developments and information are contradictory. Not everyone feels comfortable in this field of tension. And not everyone has to.

However, innovation is only possible in ambiguity. Nobody creates something new without courage and risk.

For us, ambiguity is the uncertainty of possibilities. This uncertainty is room for manoeuvre. And we show you how to navigate it and use it - with CoCreACT®.