The Value of Uncertainty

Most people like to know. They like to know what’s coming next. That like to know what will happen next year. They like to know how every decision will turn out, sometimes even before they make the decision. 

 

Many so called “experts” would have us believe that to succeed we need to remove as much uncertainty from our life as possible. They see uncertainties as leading to a lack of control. They say it adds stress to our lives that we don’t need. 

 

Since they are experts I suppose they are right about all of that. But here’s the thing; without uncertainty there are no possibilities. Possibilities and innovation come directly from uncertainty.

 

We also need some stress in our lives. It’s what causes us to take action. A life with absolutely no stress is a life of immobility. It is a life lived stuck where it’s at with little reason to grow and expand. It is likely a passionless life as well. Not all stress is bad and thinking that it is only adds the kind of stress that is bad for us.

 

As to uncertainty, think of all the things you take for granted that you wouldn’t have if not for uncertainty. 

 

The mere fact that you’re able to read this came from uncertainty. Whether you’re reading this on a computer, a tablet or a smartphone none of those would have ever been invented if the inventors were certain they couldn’t make anything better than a pencil and paper. I’d hazard a big guess that they had no conclusive idea how their inventions would turn out but they put the uncertainty aside and began anyway.

 

Do you suppose Tim Berners-Lee was certain how the whole World Wide Web thing would work out? Do you think he could have imagined its impact on the world? He didn’t let his uncertainty stop him and neither should you.

 

The list could go on forever. Virtually everything that was once thought impossible came about because someone decided to embrace the uncertainty of what could be possible.

 

Certainty is boring. Embrace the unknowns in your life and be excited about the possibilities ahead. Never believe that “good enough” is good enough. Look for “better” in every part of your life. There is something you’re uncertain about in your life and it’s possible that uncertainty could be the thing that makes a difference in the lives of many many people.


Go for it!


The Power of an Idea

Linus Pauling said that the best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas. I think I agree with that …. mostly. I say mostly because I’m not sure an idea can be considered good until somebody does something with it. 

Lots of people have good ideas, and lots of those people never do anything with them. 

One challenge with having an idea is that it takes courage to share it. The bigger the idea the more courage it takes.

Which brings us to Craig McCaw. Mr. McCaw is an idea man. I don’t know this for sure but I’d bet he has had lots of ideas, some good, some not so good. But one idea he had that turned out to be something of a success was the wild idea of a cellular phone. 

As a pioneer of the cellular industry and the founder of McCaw Cellular, now part of AT&T, he envisioned a time when a person would have one phone number that followed them wherever they went. That was a crazy idea, a big idea and an idea he had the courage to share. 

It was also an idea that worked. Today your cellular phone will work around the world, same number, following you wherever you go. 

One reason it worked, maybe the biggest reason, is that he had the courage to give voice to his ideas. He was willing to risk looking silly, or stupid, or even crazy to share his ideas and see what would come from them. 

Many of the things we take for granted today were once just an idea. Many, if not most of those ideas might even have been considered impossible and if no one had the courage to share their idea they would have stayed impossible.

Giving voice to your ideas is the first step to success. 

So take a chance. Share your idea, tell somebody. Yes, you need to protect your idea from those who would steal it but don’t let that keep you from taking your idea from it’s hiding place and showing it off a bit.

Just having an idea might make it a good idea but letting it loose just might make it a great one. Ideas only truly become powerful when they are shared. 

So…what’s your big idea?

Change is Not Optional

Most people (how’s that for a wide generalization) don’t like change. Actually, they are okay with change so long as the change doesn’t affect them personally. The worst change of course is the kind that impacts some long held belief or tradition. 

But today, in a world where “traditions” are increasingly tossed aside, where organizations are told that they must innovate or face extinction, change is not optional. The very next innovation could be the one that extends the life of your organization or sends it to the ash heap of the formerly successful innovators. 

But here’s the problem; organizations can’t innovate, only people can.

I was once asked how to teach people to be innovative. My answer was almost instinctive, I said you don’t teach people to innovate, you hire innovative people. Upon further reflection I’d answer that you hire people who care about making a difference and people who want to “leave something behind” for their organization. You then place them in an innovative environment.

Innovation is a people driven process and what makes it so challenging is that people are emotional. They constantly, if even subconsciously, balance risk with reward. 

Even though the desire to innovate may be high the need for safety and security is higher. It’s the fear of losing that security that prevents innovative people from innovating.

That’s why organizations that want to be around in 25 years require especially strong leadership. Not just strong leadership “at the top,” but strong leadership at every level of the organization. 

Those strong leaders must provide an environment where failure is not just tolerated but celebrated as a step forward and and a learning opportunity. Those leaders must provide an environment where well considered risk is not just allowed but encouraged, maybe even demanded.

Much of the technology used in business today was unimaginable by most people just 10 or 15 years ago. The speed at which technology is changing and improving is increasing literally every day. It is truly unimaginable what that technology will look like in a mere 5 years. 

This much we do know: if you’re a leader and you’re not providing your people an environment where taking thoughtful risk is encouraged and occasional failure is risk free then your people will fight the change needed to succeed tomorrow.

If you’re a leader who wants continued success then take charge of change before change takes charge of you.