Saturday, May 14, 2011

Futurespecting Ambiguity

I've noticed a job skill much in demand these days is "ability to deal with ambiguity." I must not have that skill because I really don't even know what that means. I just did a job search on LinkedIn with the keyword "ambiguity" and I got more hits than I do when I use the keyword "science." It's usually in the context of something like this from a typical Dell job ad:

-Candidate must be organized, enthusiastic, creative, results oriented, innovative and able to deal with
ambiguity and tight deadlines while working effectively in a team environment

I was right there with them until they got to the "deal with ambiguity" part. Do they mean mind reading? That thing where your boss tells you to do something really vague that you've never heard of so you Google it and read some forums, guess what he means and do that, then email it to him and hope he doesn't respond? Because I can do THAT. I just never called it dealing with ambiguity. I just call that working with engineers.

This is my favorite job ad I found with the "ambiguity" filter.

Field Sales, (Central Region)

ThoughtWorks Studios - Austin, Texas Area

You will have the following competencies:

Communication. Proactive communicator. Can easily build credibility and trust across a wide range of people. Able to give and receive feedback constructively. Comfortable having difficult discussions. Great coach and mentor.
Resilient: Personal and professional resilience. Can accept mistakes and handle conflict. Able and willing to make decisions and not always be right. Stands up for our people, can become unpopular.
Strategic. Actions and decisions driven by TW’s values. Looks forward to the future, though able to balance the ideals of tomorrow with the realities of today. Business focused; able to empathise with leaders and win their trust. Able to balance the day-to-day business needs with ThoughtWorks’ values and aims around diversity.
Team Work. Intuitively collaborative and able to work with all kinds of people. Leads by example. Passionate about getting people to their next level. Inspires and is inspired by the people around them. Spots when others need help. Willing to step in and do what is needed as necessary. Low ego.
Ambiguity. Undeterred by ambiguity, uncertainty and lack of resources. Able to hold many different possibilities and conflicting viewpoints in mind and work through to a solution. Understands Global: National: Local: Personal and is able to prioritise as needed. Is the cultural monitor and sense checker of our business. Is the protector of ThoughtWorks values. Futurespects what is possible, and then implements a solution.
Sense of Urgency. Has a strong desire to bring about positive change in individuals and the team, and works proactively to help people achieve at their highest potential.


This clearly has nothing to do with engineering. I have no idea what this company does and I am pretty sure I don't move in the same circles with anybody like this. Although I would love a job where I get to just make up idiotic sounding words. Futurespects? You mean forecasting? What was wrong with the word we already had? Made up words -- if I'm allowed to do it ironically I'm totally in. Maybe I could make up my own bogus marketing language to be used like the faux latin placeholders in graphic design mock ups.

MetaThink Space
Actionated intellimetagence to earflag haterphernalia mediaflips


  1. I know, I know, you want fresh insight. Let me stop laughing and I'll get back to you.

    I think this is all the work of those damn search filters. Maybe not that ThoughtWorks job. That's got to be the work of pranksters. (My fave being "intuitively collaborative." I should knock on my officemate's door and declare "I had a premonition you want to work together today"?)

    Okay, the filters. Companies are desperate to find stellar candidates without having to do too much meeting with people and real life interviewing. They have probably realized that they've never been that good at that in any case. I think they are hoping that using words like "ambiguity"in addition to the more traditional buzz words like "leadership." The straight forward people haven't worked out so they are willing to try out the claivoiyant sense checkers.

  2. Welcome to the current state of American business! This is what I call your average, everyday, corporate-speak, bullshit. These and other terms, buzzwords, and catchphrases are used by unthinking "brilliant" business-types 24/7.

    This stuff makes me sad for the human race. I've been keeping track of all of the bullshit that executives and salespeople learn from mimicking one another for 20 years, and it only gets more outrageous and unintentionally hilarious.

    It has come to the point where I will sit in a meeting and wait (usually don't have to wait more than two or three seconds) for a buzzword or phrase, at which point my iPhone will emit a sound effect of some type. Yes, I have a sound effect app, and I use it to teach people to stop saying stupid shit like, "The net-net is...", or, "At the end of the day...", or, "We are transparent in our communication...".

    Sounds range from good old farts, to Wilhelm Screams, to animal noises. At first, my boss and coworkers found my doing it quite annoying, but when THEY REALIZED how much senseless shit they had been spewing, it became a way for them to learn to communicate more effectively, and without sounding like some dipshit MBA candidate (apologies to Ninja Mom because I know her hubby is not a dipshit MBA, but a real and truly genuine MBA person!). We actually make a bit of a game of it now.

  3. Odd coincidence, I was looking for the generic term for "Indian software firm" for a joke today and what is listed on the Wikipedia page for Indian Software companies but ThoughtWorks Studios. "We grew to eight people, mostly MBA types. We then realized we had to recruit some top techie weenies, because we needed people who could write coherent code." So Glenn totally called it: MBA dipshits. And by "top techie weenies" they clearly mean offshoring. MBA dipshits wouldn't know "coherent code" if it handed them a business card and took them to lunch.