What is Positive Ambiguity?

According to the 2017 Global Innovation Index, last year Australia fell 4 spots to 23rd.

After almost 200 innovation projects over nearly 10 years, we've found that there is a tremendous gap between many organisations’ ambitions to innovate, to disrupt and design compelling new offers and the reality of leadership, systems and structures connected to innovation. This is a gap between what organisations say and how they actually behave and think

We have seen this attitude gap too many times, so we thought it was about time we did something about it!

Last year, we secured government funding to unpack the attitudinal frameworks that support successful innovation, in particular into the idea of ‘Positive Ambiguity’.  This project has so far entailed 100’s of hours of desk research and we’ve personally interviewed a cross-section of over 50 of Australia’s most innovative organisations.

Right now, we are ready to move into the quantitative research so we've partnered with The Science of Innovation Lab at UNSW to develop the 'Positive Ambiguity' metric.

This system will be designed to understand your organisation's current disposition towards ambiguity and the implications of this score for your organisation's creativity, speed of decision-making, experimentation and resultant innovation capacity. 

In our inaugural year, we are giving interested participants customized insights into their business and employees' ambiguity tolerance with relevant implications for their organisation's creativity, speed of decision-making, experimentation and resultant innovation capacity, benchmarked against industry and peers.

 
 

Benchmark Your Organisation's 'Positive Ambiguity' Score

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To obtain this score and receive customised insights for your organisation, please register your interest below

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'Positive Ambiguity' In The News

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Embracing Positive Ambiguity: A Challenge of "Nature" and "Nurture"

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Over the course of our interviews with business leaders across Australia we've identified a number of fundamental principles that underpin an individual's capacity to embrace and excel in situations of ambiguity. 

Our Nature means we have a default setting that makes us uncomfortable with uncertainty:

  • inherent cognitive biases and cognitive fatigue in both individuals and teams mean we need to re-wire our brains- AND OUR ORGANISATIONS - around a positive ambiguity to combat the negative ambiguity of these dangerous biases
  • the pressure on leaders to minimise risk & uncertainty requires a recognition that uncertainty and complexity are unavoidable – and nurture adaptive behaviours to help you deal with the heat.
  • heightened siloisation in Australian organisations, and the risks of isolating innovation into innovation labs, rather than full cultural change

But, there are 4 key ways that we can Nurture a higher tolerance for Positive Ambiguity, and start to re-wire our factory settings:

  • Embracing complexity by embedding design thinking and discovery processes to deal with unprecedented, rapid change
  • 3 steps to overcoming the data paradox: get comfortable with incomplete data, upweight qualitative data and get better at storytelling in the boardroom
  • Focusing on problem-centricity: remain solution-agnostic for as long as possible
  • Reframing failure:  think of innovation as business experiments, where stopping early is still a successful result
 

What We Heard From Industry Leaders Across Australia

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You have to play with uncertainty, learn from it… but then you have to stop and say that based on your assumptions this is the best you can do… and then test your assumptions going forward.
— Dr Peter Hayward, Swinburne University
One of hardest things about working with start-ups is convincing them how much uncertainty still exists in their plans… It’s our job to make you stop, hit rewind, go back with us to really clarify the problem you’re solving.
— Alan Jones, Startup Advisor, BlueChilli
Everyone hates the word ‘failure’, so we reframe it as ‘learning’. What really works is the scientific language of experimentation and the language of the business model canvas.
— GAURI BHALLA, CEO OF CURIOUS COLLECTIVE
Everyone talks about getting comfortable with failure. Today’s leading companies are comfortable accepting failure - what we need to do is fail faster... we’ve got to get better at stopping. It’s hard because you’re ultimately dealing with humans who push things along because they’re passionate, because they want it to work. You might succeed but what if it wasn’t right for the company, for the brand.
— John Moore, Digital and Transformation Leader, Bupa
“Move away from established ways of working. The more we can rattle the cage of traditionalism, the more we can get people to think differently... we can say a lot about being open to ideas, but people can still feel like they need permission to problem solve or make suggestions for improvements.”
— Liz McPherson, Chief Culture Officer, Future Fund
Management teams are paid to make perfect decisions with imperfect information; to grow in confidence when dealing with unknowns. There is a big difference between making irrational decisions and making decisions with a degree of uncertainty. Uncertainty is at odds with the theory that great management comes from making data-qualified decisions.
— Alistair Venn, Managing Director, Menulog
One of the issues I see with a lot of apps is that they are solving problems that aren’t real - because they rely on behaviour that doesn’t/won’t exist at a practical level, rather than a theoretical level. Like new diagnostics software tools. Too often these tools make it difficult for the doctor, or have no real reward. Do they actually care enough to do the new thing? 99% of the time they don’t. It’s an elegant solution, but no-one will use it. We go to MVP as quickly as possible, then do lots of user testing.
— Cathie Reid, Co-founder, EPIC Pharmacy