Tag Archives: uncertainty

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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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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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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The public decision-maker in the face of uncertainty: towards the technical democracy

The generalized uncertainty in which our societies are immersed, combined with their growing complexity, undermines the authority of experts whose knowledge is more easily questioned. This is particularly true for public decision-makers, who are now faced with systematic challenges to their decisions, whatever the field. Understanding the causes and stakes of what some call “technical democracy”, but also its potential dangers, is becoming essential.

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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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Responding to the Covid-19 Crisis: Three Courses of Action for a CEO

[Version française ici]

In these times of coronavirus epidemic, I have the opportunity to talk to people from very different backgrounds (emergency doctors, researchers, self-employed people, entrepreneurs, retirees, business leaders, etc.) to understand how they “live” the current crisis both personally and professionally. From these discussions, I can draw three courses of action that a CEO can usefully adopt in the face of the extreme and unprecedented situation we are experiencing. Continue reading

The Four Things that the Covid-19 Reminds Us About Decision Making in Uncertainty

The unexpected emergence of the coronavirus and its uncertain consequences remind us of four things that we should have known, or that we knew but did not apply about the environment in which we live: the unpredictability of the future, the difference between risk and uncertainty, the non-linearity of the evolution of the world, and the social construction of surprises.

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