preloder

How to embrace ambiguity during the design process

Oct 3, 2019 | Insights

Eunice Jean Patron

Communications
Officer

Ambiguity is a common thing among design thinkers. Whether you know it or not, it happens. Designers, innovators, and leaders see ambiguity as daunting, but still, they face it with heads held high. By this point, you might be wondering – what exactly is ambiguity?

One of the definitions that Cambridge Dictionary gave to the word ambiguity is “the state of being uncertain.” Putting it into the perspective of design, ambiguity happens when design thinkers are unsure about their next step or the direction they’ll head into.

Being uncertain about decisions is what most people avoid at all costs. But as innovators, ambiguity is something you cannot avoid. And that’s okay! So, why not embrace it?

There are many ways you can rise through the state of ambiguity, and before you know it you’ll have the best results in your hands. One practice IDEO, a global design and innovation company, suggested to do when facing ambiguity is imagining you’re in a meeting room.

IDEO gave a situation wherein “…someone hits you with an unexpected hardball question. All heads turn to you, awaiting a brilliant response. You freeze up, your mouth goes dry. You know you should have an answer, but your mind goes blank.”

Being uncertain about decisions is what most people avoid at all costs. But as innovators, ambiguity is something you cannot avoid. And that’s okay!

So, why not embrace it?

Thinking that you should have an answer to every question is exactly what’s stopping you from releasing your creativity – an integral part of the design process. Keep in mind: some questions don’t have the right answers – it all depends on the perspective. The word “should” suggests definite answers; this is the time for you to shift to the word “could”.

Shifting to the could perspective is kind of ambiguous, isn’t it? There’s a hint of uncertainty that will make you second-guess your decisions. But that’s the thing – the could perspective will give you lots of answers, some of which will probably be creative ones you can move forward with.

We should accept the fact that we don’t know the answers to everything. It is definitely normal and is something the should perspective dismisses. The should perspective tells you to be a know-it-all, to have the correct solutions prepared every time you’re in an ambiguous state. One thing you can learn from ambiguity is that there’s no harm in not knowing. Answering “I don’t know” to a question asked to you in the meeting room situation can lead you to think of solutions you could do. 

By integrating the could perspective to the “I don’t know” statement, you can generate questions that in turn will spark an innovative idea within you. In the meeting room situation, answering people’s questions with an “I don’t know, could we do something like…?” can also make them generate innovative solutions. 

It will give you an avenue to lead your team in a collaborative session which will help you rise from the uncertainty. Consider it as a plus point, where you can also show your professional leadership – by giving your teammates a say in the situation as well. Leading in ambiguity is something to be proud of. This point highlights the importance of having a facilitator, either internal or external, so all uncertainties your team members have will be guided.

Ambiguity is a common thing among design thinkers. Innovation itself is a messy, ambiguous process. Coming up with breakthroughs often comes with lots of uncertainties. Learning how to embrace ambiguity during the design process is definitely a step towards a creative – and most probably successful – innovations. 

Here’s a tip for you, don’t be afraid to take a leap towards ambiguity! Here at Limitless Lab, we welcome the world of uncertainty with arms open wide. We would love to help you with your ambiguous state through ideas generation and facilitation. Take the leap towards ambiguity with Limitless Lab!

 

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