Thursday, September 02, 2010
People Dislike Ambiguity
The Heath brothers have a terrific column in Fast Company about how managers should "break down the play" when trying to enact change in an organization. Chip and Dan Heath explain that human beings dislike ambiguity. Given a choice between two situations - one quite clear and one rather murky - they will choose the clearer one even if there's no other reason to prefer one over the other. They explain that managers should capitalize on this aversion to ambiguity as they plot change efforts. They recommend "breaking down the play" - i.e. acting like a football coach who creates explicit directions for each of the 11 players on the field so that a complex play will be executed according to plan. The idea is to make the steps as concrete as possible, so that people understand what you are expecting them to do. They need to understand precisely which behaviors must change to accomplish your broader goals.