The Upside of Uncertainty … how to embrace uncertainty and transform it into a force for good … tools for competing in a positive VUCA world

August 8, 2022

Many people see uncertainty as negative.

It means that you cannot plan like you used to, to predict what happens next based on what happened before, and to continue to use the same approaches to driving business success that got you to today.

It puts fear in our minds, inhibits our actions, and limits our progress.

Yet uncertainty is the great shake up. It brings change. And change brings new possibilities. New opportunities to refocus your business, to find new ways to innovate and grow.

Many people life to hide behind that overused phrase VUCA, a military concept for planning in a world of change. Volatile Uncertain Complex Ambiguous. Yet VUCA could equally be more positive, and mean Vibrant Unreal Creative Ambitious.

In The Upside of Uncertainty, academic Nathan Furr and his entrepreneurial wife explore how to embrace uncertainty and transforming it into a force for good. Building on hundreds of interviews, along with pioneering research in psychology, innovation, and behavioural economics, the book offers a range of tools—including mental models, techniques, and reflections—for seeing the upside of uncertainty, developing a vision for what to do next, and opening  up to new possibilities.

The Furrs say “Facing uncertainty takes courage, wisdom, and dedication. We use a shimmering red cross as a beacon that anchors the four stages of Uncertainty Possibility” and offer a range of tools built on the motif.

Reframe tools

Uncertainty causes discomfort. Even if you chose the situation you find yourself in, a negative or skewed perspective will thwart your efforts and can stop you from even trying. Focusing on the unknown and distressing aspects won’t allow you to see all your options.  If you can reframe the uncertainty as possibility, you have taken the most transilient step required. Leaping from an uncertainty to possibility frame can be done in myriad ways. The following are frames or lenses you can try on to access more possibilities.

Prime tools

Uncertainty starts to feel manageable when you combine your reframed outlook with a willingness to prep for the tasks ahead. To prime means to literally make something (or someone) ready for what’s coming. Priming well can take time but brings courage and energy and enlarges the outcomes possible.  The finished product is always of a much higher quality.

Do tools

Taking action is one of the most critical part of navigating uncertainty. Doing something dispels the fog of ambiguity, gives us courage and actually creates the very future we want to live into, especially when you have primed yourself for the possibility you are leaping towards.  But moving forward takes finesse and heart, a willingness to learn, a willingness to be wrong and a readiness to change.  When you move into the unknown this way, you can’t fail because all of it will be a worthwhile discovery.  Even if it means doing it more times and in more ways than you could have imagined, the quality and satisfaction both of the journey and its outcome is born from the why and how you do it.

Sustain tools

Sometimes uncertainty is forced on us when we get blindsided by the unexpected.  Even when we choose uncertainty, it’s hard and things go differently than planned.  Even if leaping over to possibility feels invigorating to you, things will go “wrong” no matter how well you reframe, prime and do.

Sustaining yourself and your projects are heroic tasks even under optimal circumstances. Just as food and drink sustain our bodies, the sustain tools are both the fuel and the pitstops on your Uncertainty Possibility endeavour. Use them when you get knocked off the horse but also remember to use them as daily coping techniques to tune up your heart, mind, body, soul.

The Furrs have produced a great book and set of resources, which you can explore in more detail online.

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