The Ambiguity Zone, Part 3: Information is power, but not if it’s ignored
In the first installment, I introduced the idea of The Ambiguity Zone: that space of time, no matter how long or short, where potentially life-altering decisions must be made with limited information available. Do we respond, or wait for the situation to become clearer?
In Part 2, I revisited the notion of tripwires — the specific events or actions that serve as the confirmation that an incident is imminent and that it’s time to take action.
In short, in order to resolve the ambiguity in the situation information is needed. Ambiguity may, in fact, be the result of a lack of information — or the perception of a lack — as much as it is conflicting or unclear information. When things are ambiguous, the balance between pro and con, good and bad, and stay or go may be subtle — and hidden in the noise.
Tripwires, however, don’t work unless there is recognition that they’ve been crossed. And, of course, they don’t work if the incident is unique enough that the tripwire doesn’t apply (or hasn’t been established).
When things are ambiguous, correctly processing all relevant information becomes critical.
Information can come from active gathering, such as monitoring weather reports in advance of a major storm, or it can come from more passive activities, such as recognizing pre-assault indicators.
Whether you go looking for it, or it simply presents itself, you have to be open to getting the information in the first place. This in turn means two things: first, you have to pay sufficient attention to recognize the information is there; second, you have to be able to quickly analyze that information without modifying it with your own preconceptions.
The clues are there if you look for them
“Pay sufficient attention” means managing distractions and looking around occasionally. If, for instance, someone is so wrapped up in their job they don’t notice the severe weather or wildfire warnings, they’ll be unlikely to know anything bad is even happening.
By the same token, having a head buried in a smartphone while in public blinds one to the pre-assault indicators they should be seeing; the attack becomes a surprise, an ambush.
You don’t need to constantly watch the news, habitually spin around to check what’s behind you, or become paranoid about being out in public. You do need to keep yourself from becoming distracted, either by circumstance or choice.
Occasionally look at the big picture; what’s happening in your region or locality that might affect your well-being? At the same time, be aware of what’s in your immediate surroundings — what are you allowing to monopolize your attention when you’re in an unsecured area? Is someone or something manipulating your awareness?
Allowing preconceptions to overpower analysis manifests itself in many ways: “This can’t be happening to me!”; “This is a safe neighborhood, so I’m in no danger”; “The weather forecasters are just trying to boost their ratings”. All of those, and many more, cloud our minds and keep us from seeing the facts. When things are ambiguous, allowing preconceptions to dictate your choices is dangerous.
Preconceptions may keep you from responding efficiently, but they can also lead to the incorrect response. Many of the negative outcomes I’ve shared are the result of people following the preconception that their gun is a tool to be used to apprehend petty criminals, for instance.
Making things less ambiguous
Successfully navigating ambiguity means both recognizing and accurately processing the information present. Paying attention to life and looking at things as they really are will help you do so.
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- Posted by Grant Cunningham
- On September 27, 2019