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No need to feel powerless in the face of uncertainty

Some reflections and an interesting article published in the Harvard Business Review on the ability to face uncertainty.


In an article published by the Harvard Business Review Nathan Furr presented his study on the ability to deal with uncertainty, the ability to know how to find opportunities where the unknown awaits us, "rather than panic and withdraw from risk". After interviewing CEOs, entrepreneurs, scientists, start-ups and creatives, some behaviors that seem to repeat themselves emerged. First of all, part of this ability is innate, tied to our instinct to make it, part can be learned and developed, especially by drawing on our creativity. In fact, it is on this part that we have the greatest possibility of increasing the options for the future. One of the mechanisms that have been common to many of the interviewees, including Nobel laureates, is the framing of frustration. Uncertainty first creates frustration which can be difficult to manage. Rather than addressing frustration by trying to eliminate it, it is more helpful to support it and learn from experience how to move forward. Even if we encounter some failures along the way, this way will allow us to achieve the results we seek. Here are some of the frames that Furr has observed several times in the research:


  • Learning - What can I learn from this challenge?

  • Game - Frustration is part of the game. Accettiamola. Instead of focusing we know what maybe we are losing, let's focus on what we could win tomorrow.

  • Gratitude - We recognize everything we already have.

  • Randomness - Much life is random. It is true that taking responsibility for one's choices is an expression of awareness, but it is also true that not everything that happens to us depends on us. Sometimes we think we can control everything, when it would be more sensible to try to interpret situations without convincing us to control them. Ready to try again when something isn't working.

  • The hero's frame, the most powerful. We can navigate uncertainty when we are willing to face the hero's journey. Overcoming obstacles, recognizing who we are, realizing ourselves. Obstacles often tell us that they are going in the right direction.


One might say nothing really new, but it is always useful to re-read some of the principles that allow us to continue on our way with resilience.


Nathan Furr is an Associate Professor of Strategy at INSEAD where he teaches innovation and technology strategy. Nathan’s research focuses on innovation and technology strategy, particularly how new and established firms adapt to technology change and enter new markets. Here the link to the original article 


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