October 24, 2022

How To Get Comfortable With Uncertainty: The Ambiguity Mindset with Debbie Sutherland

People don’t hate change, they hate the ambiguity that comes with change. Organizational psychologist, Dr Debbie Sutherland PhD, shares the tools we can use, both in business settings and in our personal lives, to overcome our discomfort with ambiguity and to thrive in uncertain environments. 

Debbie is an academic executive coach with both a masters degree and doctorate degree from Columbia University. She has recently written a well researched book, The Business of Ambiguity: Demystify the Unknown with Five Key Thinking and Behavior Strategies, which gives business leaders a blueprint for making better decisions in ambiguous situations. After all, ambiguous and uncertain situations aren’t going away, so we might as well figure out how to deal with them!

Thank you to all our listeners of Behavioral Grooves, we enjoy sharing unique insights with you. If you have enjoyed this episode, please consider writing a review on your podcast player. Or you can contribute financially to our work through our Patreon page.



(2:31) Welcome and speed round questions.

(5:35) Why do people hate ambiguity?

(9:40) How frustration led to Debbie’s research on ambiguity?

(11:25) The value of critical reflection.

(16:11) How journaling can help you find patterns in behavior.

(21:09) Mental models of ambiguity.

(23:02) Reflection IN action vs. reflection ON action.

(25:44) The ambiguity of THE dress.

(29:18) The Ambiguity Mindset – intuitive or learned?

(30:26) Where do leaders make mistakes with managing ambiguity? 

(38:25) What music would Debbie take to a desert island?

(43:04) Grooving Session with Kurt and Tim on ambiguity.



Debbie Sutherland’s book “The Business of Ambiguity: Demystify the Unknown with Five Key Thinking and Behavior Strategies”: https://amzn.to/3MFuh3W 

The Business of Ambiguity: https://www.behaviorsinbusiness.com/ 

Groups Relations Conferences: https://www.tc.columbia.edu/organization-and-leadership/social-organizational-psychology/degree-info/group-relations-conferences/ 

Gestalt Psychology: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gestalt_psychology 

Dr Pamela Booth research on Behavior Analysis: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Behaviour-Analysis%3A-Catalyst-for-Perspective-and-of-Booth/d90d2da66a769d574e99a5dcf6f5ced41a689ee1 

David Schon, The Reflective Practitioner: https://graysreadinggroup.wordpress.com/2012/12/18/the-reflective-practitioner-by-donald-schon/ 

Episode 178, Kwame Christian: On Compassionate Curiosity, Social Justice Conversations, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/kwame-christian-on-compassionate-curiosity-social-justice-conversations-and-cinnamon-toast-crunch/ 

Episode 323, Quit: Why We Do It Too Late and How To Get Better At It with Annie Duke: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/quit-with-annie-duke/ 

Episode 322, Chuck Wisner: Four Steps To More Effective Conversations: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/more-effective-conversations/ 

Behavioral Grooves Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/behavioralgrooves


Musical Links

Eminem “Fall”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfTbHITdhEI 

Vivaldi “Four Seasons”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRxofEmo3HA

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