Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Embracing uncertainty

Uncertainty = Bad, Certainty = Good.

I think that’s the way we are conditioned to think and behave – not liking uncertainty.

We go to school and learn facts about things. I remember finding out that we don’t really know who Shakespeare is and being astounded. How could all of those teachers have taught me Shakespeare’s plays and never let on that there was a huge question over who he actually was? Maybe they didn’t know that we don’t know. Or maybe they just didn’t want to say. Or maybe it was too complex an idea for young fragile minds. I don’t know.

I do know that uncertainty wasn’t a big thing when I was at school. Even chemistry experiments had a right or wrong answer – they weren’t experiments at all. Well, at least not most of the time.

The only time I ever got “taught” about uncertainty was in the final year of my MBA. I had three years (I did it part-time) with no uncertainty, then in the final year the idea that maybe we don’t know quite as much as we were letting on was introduced. It was the best and most instructive year of the whole course. I had a fabulous tutor who gently and patiently taught me how not to know things. It was a major step forward which I have been grateful for ever since. It gave me permission to find out things for myself and admit that I didn’t know. It was liberating and empowering.

Of course there are many areas where uncertainty is taught and learnt, but I suggest for the most part we prefer being sure about things rather than being unsure. I think human beings are basically uncomfortable with uncertainty. For obvious reasons I guess.

The truth is, however, that very little is certain. This credit-crunching recession is teaching us that. Just when you get used to life as we know it, along comes a global rug and pulls everything from under us.

The physicist Richard Feynman talked about uncertainty. He was certain that he was happy with uncertainty. At least he was much happier being uncertain about something than believing something to be true which in fact wasn’t.

It’s a fundamental thought. How many things do I think are true, whereas in fact they may not be?

There are areas of my life that are riddled with uncertainty. I don’t like it - I’m forever trying to figure out how things should work and how I should behave, just to have the whole pack of cards come tumbling down again. So maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Maybe my models have just fooled me into thinking I know something when in fact I don’t. I would be better off accepting that I don’t know, and stop struggling.

So perhaps:
Uncertainty = Good, Certainty = Bad.

Some of the time, at least!

Hear Richard Feynman talking about uncertainty:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MmpUWEW6Is

13 comments:

  1. Caroline

    An intersting development and quite a change maybe?

    Is it a change or were you always challenging the boundaries?

    I have recently asked my team and shareholders about our business and developed a SWOT, someone suggested we should aspire to be "boring" . On the face of it that sounds xxxxxx, yes? but in reality it is I believe and they do too, about finding space and time to explore the more intersting less certain environments , the places we can go to add value and make a difference.

    The challenge is to avoid staying in the zone of contentment and moving through denial. confusion an remain in the zone of renewal.I'll forward you the refernce to this work.

    Stay real, stay in the ZOUD, the zone of useful discussion and welcome challenge!

    Robert

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very inspiring - We need to learn about uncertainty, as we are always going to face it and must know how to cope with it.

    I think this should be more present at school - it would help children who are more creative feel they can be, and those who need "order" in their lives learn how to cope and find order in chaos.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Robert

    ... finding space and time to explore the more intersting less certain environments , the places we can go to add value and make a difference...

    What wonderful thoughts. Once the acceptance of uncertainty becomes "OK" a whole new world opens up. As you put it - it becomes quite an entrepreurial concept.

    And your points about contentment and denial really ring true - its all about getting out of the comfort zone.

    Thanks! And yes, please, would love the reference ....

    ReplyDelete
  4. Mireia

    Yes, the whole school thing is interesting isn't it? I'd like to think things have changed since the dark ages when I was at school, but creativity wasn't high on the agenda. I guess there's also an argument that you have to learn the rules before you can start bending/breaking them.

    But I so agree - finding uncertainty more inspiring than frightening ...

    ReplyDelete
  5. Landscape , Outdoor, Landscape Lighting Installation, Lawn Sprinkler Design, Repairs, Installation, Lawn Irrigation Service, Sprinkler System Backflow Testing at Long Island, Nassau County, Suffolk County, Dix Hills NY, Huntington NY, Syosset NY, Smithtown NY and Happauge NY

    ReplyDelete
  6. Diskdatadestruction.net offers Mobile paper shredding, Mobile hard drive destruction at Hauppauge NY, Suffolk County NY, Long Island NY, Ronkonkoma NY, Melville NY, Huntington NY, Garden City NY, Farmingdale NY, Westbury NY, Bohemia NY, Stony Brook NY, Nassau County NY

    ReplyDelete
  7. Nyallpurposepaving.com offers Paving Contractor, Parking Lot Repairs, sealing, striping, Oil and Stone Driveways at Riverhead NY, Quogue NY, Hamptons NY, Southampton NY, Sag Harbor NY, Green point NY, Wading River NY, East Moriches NY, Center Moriches NY, Mannorville NY, Miller Place NY , Mt. Sinai NY,Greenport NY

    ReplyDelete
  8. Jettonsgrading.com offers Grading, Excavation and Paving Contractor, Land Clearing Services, Septic Systems, Retaining Walls and Driveways, Drainage Systems, Construction Site Clean-Up, Demolition Contractor at Walhalla SC, Seneca SC

    ReplyDelete
  9. Atopcommercialpaving.com offers Commercial Paving, Asphalt Contractor, and Parking Lot Resurfacing at Queens NY, Nassau County, Bayside NY, Jamaica NY, Middle Village NY, Ozone Park NY, Howard Beach NY, Little Neck NY

    ReplyDelete
  10. Bedbugprocpc.com offers Bed Bug Exterminator, Bed Bug Inspections, Bed Bug Elimination, Bed Bug Inspection for Hotels and Residential and Commercial Bed Bug at Palo Alto CA, San Mateo CA, San Jose CA, Belmont CA, San francisco CA, Redwood City CA, Sunnyvale CA

    ReplyDelete
  11. reliablecommercialpaving.com offers Parking lot paving, walk way construction, Commercial paving, asphalt, Parking Lot Repairs, Parking Lot Striping, Commercial Blacktop, Parking Lot Repairs, Commercial Paving Contractor, Commercial Asphalt Contractor at New Jersey at Hanover NJ, East Orange NJ, Newark NJ, Morristown NJ, Summit NJ , Union NJ, Hackensack NJ, Patterson NJ

    ReplyDelete
  12. Pest Control Palo Alto CA, Exterminator Palo Alto CA, Rodent Control Palo Alto CA, Rodent Elimination Palo Alto CA, Pest Elimination Palo Alto CA, Pest Control San Mateo CA, Exterminator San Mateo CA, Rodent Control San Mateo CA, Rodent Elimination San Mateo CA, Pest Elimination San Mateo CA, Pest Control San Jose CA, Rodent Control San Jose CA, Exterminator San Jose CA, Rodent Elimination San Jose CA, Pest Elimination San Jose CA, Pest Control San Francisco CA, Exterminator San Francisco CA, Rodent Control San francisco CA, Rodent Elimination San francisco CA, Pest Elimination San Francisco CA, Pest Control Redwood City CA, Exterminator Redwood City CA, Rodent Control Redwood City CA,Rodent Elimination Redwood City CA, Pest Elimination Redwood City CA, Pest Control Sunnyvale CA, Exterminator Sunnyvale CA, Rodent Control Sunnyvale CA, Rodent Elimination Sunnyvale CA, Pest Elimination Sunnyvale CA, Pest Control Belmont CA, Exterminator Belmont CA, Rodent Control Belmont CA, Rodent Elimination Belmont CA, Pest Elimination Belmont CA, Pest Control Daly City CA, Cockroach Removal Daly City CA, Mice Control Daly City CA, Mice Removal Daly City CA, Rat Control Daly City CA, Rodent Control Daly City CA, Rodent proofing Daly City CA, Flea Control Daly City CA, Ant Control Daly City CA, Bee Control Daly City CA, Bed Bug Exterminator Daly City CA, Cockroach Exterminator Daly City CA, Cockroach Removal Daly City CA, Residential Mice Control Daly City CA, Residential Rodent proofing Daly City CA, Residential Flea Control Daly City CA, Residential Flea Exterminator Daly City CA, Residential Flea Removal Daly City CA, Commercial Exterminator Daly City CA, Commercial Pest Control Daly City CA, Commercial Pest Removal Daly City CA, Commercial Ant Control Daly City CA, Commercial Ant Exterminator Daly City CA, Commercial Ant Removal Daly City CA, Commercial Bee Control Daly City CA, Commercial Bee Exterminator Daly City CA, Commercial Bee Hive Removal Daly City CA, Commercial Cockroach Control Daly City CA, Commercial Cockroach Exterminator Daly City CA, Commercial Cockroach Removal Daly City CA, Commercial Mice Control Daly City CA, Commercial Mice Exterminator Daly City CA, Commercial Mice Removal Daly City CA, Commercial Rat Control Daly City CA, Commercial Rat Exterminator Daly City CA, Commercial Rat Removal Daly City CA, Commercial Rodent Control Daly City CA, Commercial Rodent Exterminator Daly City CA, Commercial Rodent Removal Daly City CA, Commercial Rodent proofing Daly City CA, Commercial Flea Control Daly City CA, Commercial Flea Exterminator Daly City CA, Commercial Flea Removal Daly City CA, Restaurant Rodent Proofing Daly City CA, Restaurant Rodent Inspections Daly City CA, Apartment Building Rodent Inspections Daly City CA, Apartment Building Bed Bug Inspections Daly City CA, Apartment Building Rodent Proofing Daly City CA, Office Building Rodent Proofing Daly City CA, Office Building Rodent Inspections Daly City CA, Exterminator Mountainview CA, Cockroach Control Mountainview CA, Rodent Exterminator Mountainview CA, Rodent Removal Mountainview CA, Rodent proofing Mountainview CA, Exterminator Mountainview CA, Pest Control Mountainview CA, Pest Removal Mountainview CA, Ant Control Mountainview CA, Ant Exterminator Mountainview CA, Commercial Exterminator Mountain view CA, Commercial Pest Removal Mountain view CA, Commercial Ant Control Mountain view CA, Commercial Mice Exterminator Mountain view CA, Commercial Mice Removal Mountain view CA

    ReplyDelete
  13. Divorce Attorney, Female Divorce Attorneys and Long Island Divorce Attorneys, Long Island Female Divorce Attorneys

    ReplyDelete