Uncertainty avoidance in teams and organisations

Uncertainty avoidance in teams and organisations

Bear with me – this one is a bit random! Just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. Brilliant. In my opinion Gladwell is to this type of book what Joe Simpson is to climbing and mountaineering books – you have probably heard of or read Touching the Void but treat yourself to The Beckoning Silence. They are both genuinely good writers and apart from great subject matter the books are a great read.

Gladwell discusses the ethnic theory of plane crashes – funnily enough I was reading it during probably the roughest descent I’ve ever experienced – on an easyJet flight into Bristol Airport in 60+mph winds.  He talks about mitigated communication (downplaying the significance of what is being said) between the hierarchies that exist in an aeroplane’s cockpit – and how this differs across different cultures. He goes on to discuss Geert Hofstede’s cultural dimensions and in particular uncertainty avoidance which deals with a society’s tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity.  It indicates to what extent a culture programs its members to feel either uncomfortable or comfortable in unstructured situations and the effect it is likely to have on communication in such situations.

The whole thing got me thinking. Firstly, because I became aware of mine and others sometimes mitigated communication when working amongst teams of individuals that have a hierarchical dimension to them and the effect that might have on project outcomes. Secondly, because we work on projects in different countries – take for example how the Uncertainty Avoidance Index for the United Kingdom (35) compares to, the second highest in the world, Portugal (104)

Digital marketing fascinates me but making it happen in organisations and the team dynamics that contribute to success or failure equally fascinates me so I am going to find out more and take account of what I have read already – especially the effect of mitigated communication across organizational hierarchies and how the negative effects can be avoided.

A note to self and the teams I work with … If you have a view on how something should be done or how it could be done better, for whatever reason – be it your particular skills, experience or just a gut feeling – you owe it to yourself, everyone else and the project to make sure you say so in a way that instigates an appropriate response.

A little bit like ‘speak now or forever hold your peace’. I have been saying that for a long time.