Making Sense of Ambiguity through Dialogue and Collaborative Action
Author(s)Carroll, John Stephen
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This paper outlines the importance of ambiguity in organizations that manage hazardous operations in a rapidly changing environment. Three kinds of ambiguity are described: fundamental ambiguity in categories and labels for understanding what is happening; causal ambiguity for understanding cause–effect relationships that enable explanation, prediction, and intervention; and role ambiguity of agreeing on responsibilities. Examples of successful and unsuccessful ways that organizations deal with ambiguity are drawn from several industries. Although the most typical response is to avoid ambiguity or to seek a false clarity from confident leaders, more successful strategies engage diverse participants from inside and outside the organization to provide multiple perspectives and innovative suggestions that contribute to learning-by-doing.
DepartmentSloan School of Management
Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management
Carroll, John S. “Making Sense of Ambiguity through Dialogue and Collaborative Action.” Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management 23, no. 2 (March 4, 2015): 59–65.
Author's final manuscript