Challenging Cassandra – The two risks of prediction for the decision-maker

We live in a time of great uncertainty, where many predictions and strongly held beliefs have been brutally disproved by the facts, especially in the last three years. And yet, we continue to make predictions. This seems rational: we want to protect ourselves against bad surprises and prepare for the worst. But this preparation comes at a significant cost.

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The performance of organizations is a societal issue – My new piece on the Drucker Forum blog

Business performance is often perceived as having no societal impact. It seems to be a strictly financial matter and to concern only its shareholders, and nobody else, and as such is even morally suspect for some. We are happy for the company that has good results, and we may suspect that is at done at the expense of society. Yet, the performance of businesses, and more generally that of organizations, is a major societal issue, an observation made by Peter Drucker, and still relevant today.

Read the rest of the piece on the Global Peter Drucker Forum’s blog here.

Do you need to build a cathedral to give meaning to your employees’ work?

Our era is in search of meaning; at least that is what we hear over and over again in companies and in society as a whole. The absence of meaning leads to disengagement, and the human resources departments of large companies are engaged in a great race to “recreate meaning” under the leadership of visionary leaders. The idea is that an ambitious vision, a noble purpose, a great narrative, will give meaning to wandering souls. This idea is illustrated by a famous tale, that of the stonemason who builds a cathedral, motivated by something greater than himself. However attractive it may be, this tale plays on questionable beliefs, and the fact that it has become a reference for motivational seminars is regrettable. In fact, it is not necessary to build a cathedral to give meaning to one’s work.

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In the face of uncertainty, what can you control?

Uncertainty is anxiety-provoking in many ways, and often with good reason. Defined as the absence of information about a given phenomenon, it often means that we don’t know what to expect, leaving the door open to unpleasant surprises – loss of job, illness, accident, war, etc. – and leaving us helpless. Because the main fear linked to uncertainty is that of loss of control, where we can no longer foresee or plan. But this fear is based on a belief that only prediction allows control. This is not necessarily the case, and the two notions can be dissociated, with important consequences for management.

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Why you have to be a conservative to innovate and (really) change the world

We often think that to innovate, we must start from scratch. Yet, all innovators are “dwarfs on the shoulders of giants”, as the philosopher Bernard de Chartres said. Far from refusing reality, let alone ignoring it, innovators start by accepting it, and then transforming it.

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In the face of uncertainty, be vulnerable

Decision-making in uncertainty is a difficult art. One of the reasons is that the tools and concepts we use are, for the most part, design for risk, i.e. for clearly defined and repeated situations. Such tools assume that uncertainty is something to protect against. This mental model of protection, which seems so logical, is in fact counterproductive. What if, on the contrary, we should not protect ourselves (too much) from uncertainty?

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Entrepreneurship and human action: Why the award received by Darden’s Saras Sarasvathy is important

Saras Sarasvathy, the originator of the entrepreneurial theory of effectuation, has just received the prestigious Swedish Global Award for Entrepreneurship Research. Organized since 1996 by the Swedish Foundation for Small Business Research (FSF) and the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth, the award recognizes researchers who made major contributions to entrepreneurship research. She joins such great researchers as Sidney Winter, Shaker Zahra, Kathleen Eisenhardt, Scott Shane, Israel Kirzner, William Gartner, William Beaumol or Zoltan Acs and David Audretsch. The prize is the recognition of more than twenty years of efforts to promote a radically different approach to entrepreneurship. But its significance goes far beyond that, as effectuation is above all a vision of human action and freedom.

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The three (wrong) reasons why you want to motivate your employees in the face of uncertainty

We live in a world marked by uncertainty and punctuated by major surprises that call into question many of our beliefs. This questioning can be very anxiety-provoking as it seems that we can no longer rely on anything stable to move forward in life. This is particularly true in companies: the situation can go as far as a form of paralysis, caused by the feeling that whatever we undertake, an unforeseen event will call everything into question. This can lead to a loss of motivation. And yet, there is no reason why uncertainty should be demotivating.

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How crises disrupt our mental models and what that means

The Covid-19 epidemics constitutes a major event that completely disrupted world life, rendering all forecasts and plans based on them obsolete within a few weeks. The very nature of a surprise is to bring to light an element of our mental models and invalidate it. Because a disruption is a process, the effects of the virus on sanitary, social, economic, business, and political dimensions unfold progressively and over a long period.

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Does uncertainty mean we live in a post-strategy world?

The Covid shock in the spring of 2020 shattered strategic plans. The continued uncertainty, two years after the beginning of the pandemic, has led some managers to question the very possibility of having a strategy when everything keeps changing. Do we live in a post-strategy world? The short answer is no; we need strategy more than ever, but it depends on how one defines strategy.

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