Category Archives: uncertainty

Building the Organization for Uncertainty: Lessons from The German Army’s Prewar Leadership Model

[version en français ici]

How can an organization not only protect itself from uncertainty, but more importantly take advantage of it? The question is a hot one these days. It preoccupies many strategists, jumping from one crisis to another in a world that has become highly unstable and full of surprises. One source of inspiration, perhaps unexpected, is the German army, which built, from the end of the 19th century, a very powerful leadership model from which we can learn a lot.

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Is Meta the new Kodak? Eight history lessons on the necessity and risks of big innovation bets

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, is doing badly. The announcement of its poor results was very badly received by the stock market. The company lost 25% of its value in one day. The weakness of Facebook and the doubts about the relevance of the colossal investment made in the metaverse, a system creating a virtual world, question the strategy of the company. The weakness of the legacy activity, and the difficulty to launch a new activity, the situation of Meta is not unlike that of Kodak twenty years ago. A look at the history of the major bets made by companies to launch or renew themselves is useful to better understand the issues facing Meta and avoid hasty judgments.

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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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In 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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In uncertainty, be a vulnerable leader

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 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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Ukraine: the cosmological episode of Europe

[Version in French]

It takes a brutal shock to bring a dreamer back to reality. This is what has just happened to Europe with the invasion of the Ukraine, a transformative event which has led to a questioning of fundamental mental models. Will Europe finally get real?

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What A Dead Economist Can Tell Us about Risk, Uncertainty, Profit… and Ourselves

What can we learn from the book of an almost unknown economist, published exactly one century ago? A lot. Is it useful to us in the face of current issues? Yes, very. It turns out that Risk, Uncertainty and Profit, published by Frank Knight in 1921, is an essential book, even if it is difficult to read. It is the first book to really define uncertainty, and to show what this notion implies in decision making. And in doing so, it also tells us a lot about who we are by revealing us as fundamentally speculative.

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Covid-19: Four Rules for the Decision-Maker to Work with Experts in the Face of an Unprecedented Event

[Version française disponible ici]

The situation has become familiar with the covid-19 epidemics, and in particular with the controversy over the use of chloroquine: everyone has an opinion and groups are being formed in favor or against it. Yet regularly, people are being called to order by others who demand that only experts should be allowed to talk on issues relating to the management of the epidemy. The message seems to have been heard: for the past three weeks, doctors have been massively present on television sets. The country has become a large proxy medical consultation room. But the question remains: faced with a complex and unprecedented situation such as the coronavirus, who has the right to speak out? To what extent can experts be trusted? More importantly, how can the decision-maker work with them?

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