Embrace uncertainty to build competitive advantage

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According to psychologists, humans are hardwired to dislike uncertainty; it’s in our DNA. In a recent study, researchers discovered that uncertainty is more stressful to people than knowing that something bad is definitely going to happen.

So when I urge leaders to “embrace uncertainty,” leaders often struggle with the concept. And yet, everything in business is subject to change, and change brings uncertainty. That often creates fear, doubt, or paralysis. You don’t know what’s going to happen, so you wait.

To compound this, we reward leaders for bringing certainty to their businesses. We reward them with bonuses and promotions for meeting revenue and profit targets set many months in advance. What do these practices teach leaders? Play it safe.

They seek more information, conduct additional analysis, ask others for advice, and await direction or permission. All of this caution slows organizations down, even when it’s crucial to make a quick decision and take action.

The good news is that individual leaders—and their organizations—can learn that uncertainty in business can actually be a positive. Why? The faster the market is changing, and the greater the uncertainty, the more opportunities you have to pull ahead of the competition. IF you’re willing to live with uncertainty.

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