In a time when we have more access to information than ever before, is it not ironic that uncertainty is still one of our biggest challenges?
I got this week’s title, Radical Uncertainty, from an article reflecting on the Thomas Cook debacle and the importance of change. (Read it here) One of the issues of change, I think, is that even when you realise the need for change, you might be uncertain about how and when. It is this uncertainty that, more often than not, prevent us from actually changing.
Top of the news this week was the resignation of DA leader, Mmusi Maimane. Perhaps there will be a great new leader, perhaps new leadership will make a difference to the struggles of the party, but because we don’t know what will happen, it is the uncertainty that allows negative speculation. In the same way, the policy uncertainty caused by Brexit will surely become a textbook example of the all-over negative environment caused by doubt. We have all been in a similar situation. The news might not be good, but at least if you know what you’re facing, you can work out a plan of action, you can assess the damage and make arrangements. You can also mentally prepare yourself, research various options and test your opinion with others. Not knowing what you’re up against – that is a challenge. Uncertainty also gives a usually false glimmer of hope that change will not be required, that you might be okay in your comfort zone…
So what to do? Change is nothing new, but today’s pace of change requires us to react quicker. We need to evaluate and research and adapt at a much quicker pace than years ago. We do, however, have much easier access to real-time information and there are a few ways in which we can ensure that uncertainty does not get the better of us. I got a few real gems from beyondphilosophy.com
- Control the controllable – manage the things you can and manage the way you cope with uncertainty.
- Uncertainty implies change, but it can also be an opportunity.
- Risk is part of life. Embrace the uncertainty – rather than “go big or go home” have an attitude of “go diverse and go on”.
- Rather than fixating on the result, focus on what can be learned through following the proper process.
- Be sensitive to human nature and the fact that uncertainty does scare people.
- Times of uncertainty gives leaders the opportunity to step up and gain their team’s confidence. Be honest and be responsible.
It seems that attitude and character is central to dealing with uncertainty. Anxiety will not fix anything, neither will be overthinking. We all tend to overthink. I am also guilty of that. I try my best to address the issue from all the angles, to get the most up to date information and to find my answer from the intelligence I’ve gathered. But sometimes this can result in a forced solution. In times of uncertainty, being patient and wise does not mean that you ignore the lurking change, it just means that you are allowing yourself the best possible response.
I believe in information. I want to know the trends and I want to have my finger on the pulse of economic and political happenings. Being informed helps one to identify the need for change, but being wise about it, makes one embrace radical uncertainty.
Radical Uncertainty is also the title of a book by John Kay and Mervyn King to be released in March 2020. I look forward to reading it as they promise to make us think smarter about using information in managing uncertainty: “The best managers in the public and private sectors rely on narratives, not numbers.”