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Thriving in uncertainty

10.02.21 05:02 AM Comment(s) By Nick Bird

inspired by Peter Senge

There is a folk myth that we can make things better for ourselves, by finding out what caused the way things are now. Sometimes this seems easy but often, especially in business, it is hard. What makes it hard is that you have so much information, that you aren't really sure where to start. But we have a myth which we feel should help. If we can select all those events that are as close to possible to what we are interested in and happen at the same time, we should be able to find a sequence. If we know this sequence, then we can find out what caused what. You see, causes always come before effects in this myth. It makes sense surely. Once we have the sequence, we start to see why one event causes the next, based on the assumptions we make about the way things work. We have learnt to learn about the world this way from childhood, and the way we see that world is similarly engrained in us.

Businesses and business consultants use this idea, employing data analysts, to try and pull this world of data complexity apart, so that they can find these keys to control. They are often pretty confident about what they find out and give us the confidence we need to craft a clever set of operating procedures, that should deliver exactly what we want.  All we need out people to do is follow them, and we manage them to ensure there are no deviations from this plan. For a time this works. Well it works as long as the details don't change. 

If they are always changing rapidly and you don't have time for this analysis, then you need some other approach. But change even in traditional business happens. The problem is that it happens very slowly or in other seemingly unconnected parts of the business, so we don't see it happening until much too late. Sales climb exponentially and then crash, change management programs go well and then unexpectedly run into the sand, problems seem to be solved and then appear again but much worse, we have a boom followed by a banking crisis no one saw coming. Even in the most stable of environments you can't truly predict what will happen EVEN IN PRINCIPLE.

This short video explains why and how you can Thrive in Uncertainty

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