Here at ThoughtForm, we’re big believers in the power of overcoming ambiguity in business problems. Clients in organizations of all sizes and industries come to us with their thorniest challenges—defining their strategic vision, bringing their business online, training their people, and more.
In our experience, an underlying issue that connects many of these challenges is a lack of clarity. Executives don’t understand how this new strategy will support revenue generation. Employees worry about how technology will change their work. Leaders struggle to inspire teams to learn a new way of working. Somewhere along the line, ambiguity settled in and communication broke down.
Why is ambiguity bad?
Ambiguity is bad for business. When an idea is too “fuzzy,” people don’t get it, don’t know what to do with it, and eventually lose interest and move on.
Ambiguity breeds confusion that affects people on both sides of the equation. Buyers don’t understand what sellers are offering, and sellers don’t understand what buyers want. Leaders don’t pay attention to the details, and teams can’t see the big picture. Ultimately, this confusion builds barriers that hinder progress and prevent action. And left unchecked, ambiguity can bring even the most brilliant effort to a grinding halt.
How can we banish ambiguity and create clarity?
Clarity is the antidote to ambiguity. If you can make an idea less “fuzzy” and more concrete, you can clear up (or even prevent) misunderstandings, build alignment, and enable action. Here’s how to do it:
In a meeting
- Design your meeting agenda. Define your meeting objectives and share them with participants ahead of time. They’ll be more prepared to have valuable discussions and make important decisions, and you’ll have a roadmap to follow to keep things on track.
- Visualize key ideas and conversation highlights. One of ThoughtForm’s meeting rules is “Only notes on the walls count.” Use sticky notes, posters, and white board sketches to document discussions, clarify complicated processes, and get participants on the same page. Design thinking isn’t just for designers. Give it a try!
In a brand
- Audit your existing communication materials. Print out pages from your website, product one-pagers, case studies, business cards, and other documents that express your company’s identity. Pin them up on a wall. Do they look like they go together, or do they seem scattered? Make note of any outliers that should be updated.
- Represent your brand consistently. Your logo, colors, typefaces, visual style, and voice should be used in the same way no matter where they appear. All of these components work together to tell the world who you are as an organization. It’s important that this message is clear.
In an offering portfolio
- Use intuitive, distinctive names. Customers need to choose between many products and services in the market. If they need to struggle to understand what you offer, they’ll move on. Keep the information you share with them task-oriented and understandable.
- Organize your offerings based on your customers. Has your organization established audience personas? (If not, these tips can help.) Use what you know about each audience group to identify the products and services that are most relevant to them. Then organize and promote your offerings accordingly.
One final tip for overcoming ambiguity: avoid jargon. Clear language is key to effective communication. And effective communication is key to action.
That’s why jargon is problematic. Terms that make sense to some people (like an internal team) may not be obvious to others. Using vague words like “synergy,” “holistic,” and “innovation” leaves your message up to interpretation. Whether you’re hosting a meeting, developing a brand, or restructuring your portfolio, leave the buzzwords at the door. Your coworkers and customers will thank you.