FACING AMBIGUOUS THREATS.
By: Roberto, Michael A., Bohmer, Richard M. J., Edmondson, Amy C.,
Harvard Business Review,
November 2006, Vol. 84, Issue 11
Why do companies have a natural inclination to misread ambiguous threats?
Factors at three levels – human cognition, group dynamics, and organizational culture – interact in ways that predispose companies to respond with less than appropriate intensity when signals of future harm are murky.
Evaluating ambiguous threats often requires rapid experimentation.
Rapid experimentation is exploratory experimentation.
In his book Learning in Action, Harvard Business School professor David Garvin explains that exploratory experiments are creative and iterative, and "designed for discovery, 'to see what would happen if.'" Investigators collect and interpret feedback rapidly and then design new trials.
Michael A. Roberto (email@example.com) is the Trustee Professor of Management at Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island, and the author of Why Great Leaders Don't Take Yes for an Answer (Wharton School Publishing, 2005).
Richard M. J. Bohmer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a physician and an associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School in Boston.
Amy C. Edmondson (email@example.com) is the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School. For a multimedia preview of this material, visit hbr.org.