Uncertainty is one thing that makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Unfortunately, in most business situations, uncertainty is a fact of life.
The real world is complex . Most businesses simplify the complexity to ‘manage’ it. Complex is too hard!
The critical point to remember with models is that they are simply models. They simplify reality in order to give some order to chaos. But this simplification always leaves things out – and this can lead to problems.
How can we cope with the uncertainty caused by complexity without relying too much on oversimplification?
As Graham also pointed out, Dave Snowden’s method in complex, unknowable situations is to probe, sense, respond.
This may be an oversimplification, but my suggestion is to keep Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words in mind – and experiment:
All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.
Experimenting is a key innovation skill. It’s a way to substitute a bunch of small bets for one big bet.
All life is an experiment, and the more experiments you try, the better off you are. If you practice this idea, it makes it a bit easier to cope with uncertainty.
And remember that all of the models that we try aren’t actually real – they’re hypotheses. We are using them to test out ideas about how the world works. If the models don’t help us do that, it’s time to move on to a new model.
Every model that we build is an experiment too.
(picture from flickr/David July under a Creative Commons License)