Knowing what you don’t know

There’s a saying, “People prefer simple answers to complex problems, even when they are wrong.”

But leaders understand the value of tolerating complexity and ambiguity.

Few things in life are fixed…except birth and death. All the rest is dependent on the circumstances around us. Each time we try to control those circumstances or draw a line in the sand, the sand can often blow back in our eyes.

Here are a few tips to see through ambiguity clearly:

  • Don’t be afraid to seek out a second opinion from another person group or expert. Don’t make decisions in a black box.
  • Don’t be afraid to refer the issue entirely to another group or committee to address. That’s what they are their for. It’s a good use of time.
  • Be willing to admit that you don’t know what you don’t know. Is the discussion based around hypotheticals instead of experience?
  • Don’t feel rushed to come up with all the answers, either as the leader or as a board. If you are feeling rushed, you likely aren’t thinking as clearly as you think.
  • Be patient. Sometimes the information you need is not yet available. Do you want to do it right or fast?
  • Doing nothing *is* doing something. Often it’s the right thing to do.
  • Something doesn’t necessarily have to be consistent or even logical to be right. It just has to solve the issue and achieve the desired outcome.
  • Flexibility isn’t necessarily inconsistency. What worked in the past doesn’t always work in the future. The world isn’t one-size-fits-all.