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Uncertainty Is Now Permanent

The last time I saw Jim Collins speak at Radio City Music Hall at the World Business Forum one  of the many points that he brought up was that we are now operating in a period of great uncertainty and that uncertainty is now the rule, not the exception. While I don’t know that we’ve ever actually lived in a period of certainty (at least I haven’t experienced it), I do know that things are changing at break-neck speed and that in order to succeed as a leader, a manager or a thought leader you need to be able to thrive in uncertain times.

I don’t believe that this means that everything we know is no longer valid, but we need to be smart enough to evaluate not just our own mindsets and skill sets, but the environment and markets that we respectively operate in. Uncertainty is either scary or exciting. It creates opportunity and renders organizations irrelevant.

While many leaders and organizations logically resist uncertainty as they have much to lose, others embrace it. In fact, many that do embrace it have just as much to lose but realize they also have much to gain. There are also many apparent contradictions that exists in uncertain times – we have more information at our disposal to make decisions yet significantly less time to analyze the data and develop a strategy. We need to move fast and yet we need to think about the long term. We need to realize that what appears to be a barrier to entry today may be a hindrance in the future.

To succeed during uncertain times, or better yet to be great as opposed to good during uncertain times, we need to accept and acknowledge its existence and its impact on all that we do. We need to create, plan and execute while being open minded, nimble and resilient. We need to be able to understand the limits of our mindsets and our skill sets on an individual and organizational level and proactively work to make sure that they are dynamic and not static. We need to proactively develop our skills and challenge our logic and we need to create organizations that value this way of thinking and practice it at every level of the organization.

Certainly telling your boss or board of directors that their thinking is wrong given the changes that are occurring in your market place is not a pleasant conversation. Letting your coworkers know that they are lacking in skills that are critical is not one most of us enjoy but they need to happen. They need to happen frequently and need to happen at all levels of an organization.

We tend to like things the way they are, incremental change isn’t too hard to manage but seismic change is. We don’t have the ability to know exactly what we need to change and exactly when we need to change it, but we do have the ability as well as a responsibility to make sure that we are ahead of the curve and changing the way we think and do to thrive in uncertain times.

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Peter Winick has deep expertise in helping those with deep expertise. He is the CEO of Thought Leadership Leverage. Visit Peter on Twitter!

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Thank you for the nice article, I agree, Uncertainty is permanent and it was always.
    If we consider it as a threat then we are left behind and if we treat it as an opportunity then we get ahead of the market.

  2. Great article Peter! I’ve never felt like things are certain or stable. I don’t understand why some people seek out jobs that are “secure,” as I’ve always thought that job security has to do with how good I am at what I do, that it comes from within. Business survival in foreseeable future will be about innovation and adaptability.

    If you believe what Kurztweil says in the Singularity is Near, then we’ll be in an accelerated state of change until the singularity happens, then the change will be beyond imagining. I’ve always liked change, my challenge is sameness.

  3. I thinks uncertainty is a pattern created by change. Change process is normal to life and living. Expert are supposed to use their knowledge to steer the ship to safety despite the uncertainty in uncertain times.
    Thanks for the sharing!

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