knowing the unknownBy Margot Cairnes

As humans we fear the unknown. The more we understand something, however, the greater our confidence in accepting or dealing with it. Today’s businesses face a range of significant challenges and fears, driven by changes in the global economy and digital disruption. The more we can raise our level of thinking, the greater will be our understanding of these challenges.

We are living in a world of wicked problems that present us with a constant stream of challenges. Wicked problems are so complex and changeable it is almost impossible to define and classify them. They are hard to predict and evaluating their level of impact is a significant challenge in itself.

Wicked problems are so difficult because everybody looking at these problems has a different point of view of what is actually the issue. Issues such as poverty, climate change, ageing workforce and so on, have been attributed as being wicked problems. The changes and challenges occurring in your industry and the economy may appear daunting and unsolvable.

The biggest threat we face today is what we don’t see coming – the unknown unknowns. We need to elevate our capability in sensing that which we cannot see (and do not know) before it broadsides us.

Constant state of change readiness

The more we understand and comprehend the greater our ability to make decisions and to act with confidence. This means we need to be in a constant state of change readiness: listening, sensing, reacting, and creating in ways never before required of us.

To do this we have to increase our brain capacity. The ways of doing this are non-traditional and rarely included in highly controlled “change programs” which are usually more about control than working skillfully with networks, evolving systems, organisational politics and the reality of human nature.

For change to be successful it needs to be embedded into the fabric of the organisation, leveraging the knowledge, experiences and perceptions of every stakeholder.This will take time and it needs to be done in stages. You will need to engage and involve employees over the long term and institutionalise a best practice methodology of constantly raising human capacity, strategic thinking and creative application.