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Masie Asks How To Teach Ambiguity? My Response: Use Your Millennials.

Crystal_Kadakia_Gray_AreaElliot Masie asked a great question in his Learning Trends newsletter this past week:

“AMBIGUITY = Embrace & Honor the Grey Area for Learning: Most instructional design is about the RIGHT answer. Standard Operating Procedures define that CORRECT approach to a problem. The vast majority of e-Learning modules test out for the learner’s ability to check the RIGHT box.

But, sometimes there is not a RIGHT vs WRONG answer. Increasingly, in our rapidly changing world, AMBIGUITY may be the reality. Even with a standard procedure, there may be six “DEPENDS” statements. CLO’s are reporting the need for their new hires to have emotional intelligence to deal with the AMBIGUITY of a situation. Yet, we don’t really have the language to embrace and honor the reality of AMBIGUITY.

Yesterday, this became clear to me in a great conversation in a coffee shop in Manhattan. Six strangers were discussing world events at a Manhattan cafe. Our conversations focused on both EBOLA and ISIS in the Middle East. Six adults, all who were clearly news aware and verbal. As we explored our perceptions of the challenges of ISIS and the risk of EBOLA – it became clear to me that we don’t easily know how to say: “We don’t know” Our media news shows create the opposite sides of an issue. But, there rarely is a GREY area representative. Only when the six of us verbalized the commonality of our shared (and diverse) AMBIGUITY about each of these topics – were we able to listen and learn from each other more clearly.

I left the coffee shop considering how we might use better embrace AMBIGUITY into our learning designs and activities.”

My response: Study your top performing Millennials. Ask them to help you design the solution. Why do you ask?

Masie says that CLOs report that new hires have the need to deal with the ambiguity of situations and imply that they need more training in this area. I would argue that my generation, the Millennial generation, is the most empowered generation to deal with ambiguity and we should be looking for my generation to help define the language and process for dealing with ambiguity and then use that to train incoming new hires.Consider what we have grown up with: the very technology that empowers us also hinders us with an overwhelming amount of information and, ultimately, ambiguity. We have grown up with the need to develop capability to filter through all this information to create clarity from ambiguity. This includes clear decisions and clear choices.

Consider the choices Millennials make: who and how to deal with vast social networks, how to decide careers to pursue in a global recession but not sacrificing purpose and happiness, and how to change workplace expectations to meet the needs of a new world.

Certainly, not all of us do it well. Your top performers, however, can certainly help guide the language in a world that we have grown up natives in: where there are no right answers, where there is so much gray area, and where there are so many facets to each choice. In my work, I often have found the most successful solutions for tomorrow’s problems are developed by the Millennials in the organization.


What are your thoughts? Have I convinced you?