Answers in the Data? LO6438

Ralph Meima (
Fri, 5 Apr 1996 16:35:23 +0200

Replying to Rol Fessenden's discussion about ambiguity (LO6343):

I think this discussion has hit on quite a remarkable aspect of
sensemaking. As Weick(1995) notes, we always seem to make sense of
just about everything, although it may sometimes take a while.
Making sense of things involves dissolving away ambiguity and
equivocality so that a convincing, seamless rationale emerges.
Events which are normal parts of our daily lives, as ambiguous as
they may appear when looked at by a researcher or stranger, seem to
quite quickly and automatically become unproblematic and safely
tucked away into familiar categories.

However, I would bet that most people who see their daily lives in
extremely black & white, "of-course" terms discover enormous
ambiguity when visiting foreign cultures. Short-term visitors can
usually rationalize it quite easily, and, being transients, are not
really threatened by it. Long-term visitors and immigrants must go
through a long difficult process until things become "of-course"
again. Moreover, Hofstede's research has shown that different
cultures maintain different levels of tolerance of ambiguity.
Swedes, for example, live with far more ambiguity that Germans or
Americans, and consider it normal (i.e., it vanishes from conscious
attention). I've been in Sweden for 7 years, and the ambient
ambiguity level in working and private life still amazes me.

Best Regards,


Ralph Meima <>

Department of Business Administration School of Economics & Management Lund University Box 7080 220 07 Lund, SWEDEN

Tel. +46 46 222-9485 / alt. 222-0243 Fax. +46 46 104437 / alt. 222-0300

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