Moving forward in a world full of uncertainty

Moving forward in a world full of uncertainty

The Covid crisis has brutally erased the efforts and progresses made in recent years to control or try to eliminate uncertainty from our lives. It brutally reminds us that the world in which we are living is uncertain and that uncertainty ispart of our humanity. Variables have changed and in our new environment adjustments are needed to keep movingforward in a high-speed world full of uncertainty.

Avoid decision paralysis

Faced to a fully unpredictable world and powerfully intimidating uncertainty the decision processes we are used to have broken down. To-day, taking a decision means accepting the existence and assuming responsibilities for risks hardly assessable. In a world where modern technologies had well succeeded in monitoring uncertainty, it may be difficult to accept.

Emotions, intuitions and personal bias are replacing logic and rational.

Scared  by the unknown and afraid of its potential negative consequences, the natural tendency is to start  searching for additional information or the final piece of advice which could help to support the decision to be  adopted. This quest for extra details which do not exist or will be found too late for being useful is conducted in vain. It mostly amounts to time wasting or procrastination and leads to decision paralysis, badly unproductive in stressful time.

It takes courage to make a decision projecting current situation in the future. Even if it later become obvious that it  was not  the best or the wisest choice, it has the  advantage to reduce uncertainty. It restores the momentum and open the door to a new dynamic.  The objectives  are fixed, targets known and strategies adopted.


To become comfortable with the uncomfortable

Yes, uncertainty creates discomfort, fear and worry. From uncertainty derive stress, anxiety and numerous negative emotions. Letting them dominate our actions can impair our judgement and will hinder our  capabilities for making decision.

Change of perspectives will show that fear and worry can also have a productive impact. Out of uncertainty and stress can rise new opportunities. They can help us becoming more adaptive, flexible and even creative. In its early years Netflix's Management confronted to the uncertainty of changing market conditions and unpredictable viewers' choice explored several options before deciding  in favor of developing its own content. Resolution which years later proved to be soundly right.


Accept uncertainty and embrace it!

Feeling fear  does not mean that things will turn out badly or will not be working out. In a memo sent to the company employees in 2015, Satya Nadella Microsoft's CEO wrote : "We need to be always learning and insatiably curious. We need to be willing to lean to uncertainty, take risks and move quickly when we make mistakes, recognizing failure happens along the way to mastery."

Doing so will be possible by :

  • Accepting to let go : Holding on is an old habit difficult to get rid of by plain fear of the future. Fear does not subside by  sitting back and wait.
  • Focussing on what can be controlledSpending time and energy on things under our control, with the right mindset and flexibility. Research has shown that people in high-risk professions, firefighter for instance, are able to "make effective sense of the hazards within dangerous contexts". This led them to take action while recognizing that whatever decision is made adjustments may be needed according to the situation.
  • Adopting bold and rapid actions such as Apple closing all its stores worldwide in response to the virus.
  • Within organization, encouraging effective collaboration and involving many different  stakeholders  to collect multiple points of view  and inputs.  Interrogations such as "What could be missing " or "what is the most important now" will contribute to provide good coverage. To obtain it, give-up the hierarchical model restricting authority to the few at the top and consult participants from  management, decision makers and experts.


The new environment  imposed  to  the entire world by uncertainty is dominated by uncertainty and to it are associated fear, anxiety even distress in some cases. It deprives us  from our controls and drive us out of our comfort zones. But waiting for perfect conditions or fully satisfying information is not an option. Opening our minds will reveal that change does not have only harmful consequences and may well lead to new opportunities out from what was supposed to be chaos.


#emotions  #fear #anxiety #opportunities #learning #transition


Christine Etcheparre


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