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Can you learn to navigate uncertainty?

Humility

Working with an open mind, ready to dive into unfamiliar territory and learning new things, makes the entire exercise stress-free and rewarding experience. This state of mind, along with basic humility makes for better performance. One’s arrogance, ego and past can negatively affect the prediction quality.

A humble attitude also makes people listen to others opinions and share their own unique insights, helping collaboration and constructive teamwork.

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Can you learn to navigate uncertainty?

Can you learn to navigate uncertainty?

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200619-why-you-are-better-at-predicting-the-future-than-you-think

bbc.com

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Key Ideas

The Self-Perception of Experts

New research on the accuracy of future predictions by people has some interesting findings:

  • Experts, largely considered an authority, fared poorly than the novices, due to their overestimating their abilities, something known as the Dunning Kruger Effect.
  • People who considered themselves more experienced or educated turned out to be closed-minded and more unlikely to learn from others, leading to a myopic or distorted view of the world around them.

Facing Change: Millennials Vs Boomers

Past experience, which many experts think helps them to better understand the world, surprisingly does not improve the ability to predict the future. The research data showed accuracy levels of the younger generation (25 to 35 years of age) being the highest.

Old people are slower to comprehend change, faster to believe and share fake news and less likely to be objective.

Humility

Working with an open mind, ready to dive into unfamiliar territory and learning new things, makes the entire exercise stress-free and rewarding experience. This state of mind, along with basic humility makes for better performance. One’s arrogance, ego and past can negatively affect the prediction quality.

A humble attitude also makes people listen to others opinions and share their own unique insights, helping collaboration and constructive teamwork.

Disagreements Are Good

While we talk to people we disagree with, without getting personal, we tend to learn new insights and ways of thinking.

In contrast, if we only expose ourselves to people who think like us and share our worldview, we start living in an echo chamber, away from reality.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

John Green, Looking for Alaska

“Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia.”

John Green, Looking for Alaska
We use our memories to imagine the future

We predict what the future will look like by using our memories. This is how actions we do repeatedly become routine. For example, you have an ideas of what your day will look like at work tomorrow based on what your day was like today, and all the other days you’ve spent working.

But memory also helps people predict what it will be like to do things they haven’t done before.

Past and future for amnesia patients

An evidence that memory and imagining the future might go hand in hand comes from research related to amnesia patients. Studies show that when they lose their pasts, it seems they lose their futures as well.

Functional MRI scans made possible for researchers to discover that many of the same brain structures are involved in both remembering and forecasting.

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Simulating a crisis
Simulating a crisis

Modeling systems are used to provide a better understanding of a bad situation and how to possibly prevent it.

Groups of researchers, teams of engineers and companies are d...

Why we use models
  • A model is just a series of calculations that abstractly represent some systems in the real world. We use models all the time.
  • We may work out the routes we could take to get to work at a specific time of the day. We use past data to make predictions about what we can expect in the future in a given set of circumstances.
  • As the volume of data and the number of variables increase, the computational task would increase.
  • Powerful models aim to forecast inherently unpredictable events and make use of machine learning to look for patterns in the data that would otherwise be missed.
The accuracy of a model

You can never accurately predict what's going to happen. Some efforts come close.

For example, models looking at the weather can achieve more than 90% accuracy. But crises are about change, and a model working from historical data may miss a dramatic and new change.

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Affective forecasting

It refers to how we predict our future emotions and how certain life events will affect them.

We’re generally pretty bad at it—and that impacts our productivity, our goal setting, and ...

We're bad at predicting our feelings

The main barriers to accurate affective forecasting:

  • Impact Bias: Your tendency to overestimate the intensity and duration of future emotions. 
  • Projection Bias: However you feel in the present, you tend to project that onto the future. 
  • Focalism: When picturing an event in the future, you tend to focus only on that event, to the exclusion of everything else that may happen.

“Our ability to look into the future and think about what will make us most happy is the way that we get to a present that pleases us.”

“Our ability to look into the future and think about what will make us most happy is the way that we get to a present that pleases us.”

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Scenario planning

It aims to define your critical uncertainties and develop plausible scenarios in order to discuss the impacts and the responses to give for each one of them. If you are aware of what could h...

How to use scenario planning
  1. Identify your driving forces: the big shifts in society, economics, technology and politics in the future and see how it will affect your company.
  2. Identify your critical uncertainties: pick 1-2 of the driving forces (with the most impact).
  3. Develop a range of plausible scenarios: Form a kind of matrix with your two critical uncertainties as axis and depending on what direction each of the uncertainties will take, you are now able to draw four possible scenarios for the future.
  4. Discuss the implications: discuss the various implications and impacts of each scenario and start to reconsider your strategy: set your mission and your goals while taking into account every scenario.
Some pitfalls to avoid

  • Don't fall into the trap is to be paralyzed by the multitude of possibilities. Keep it simple and focus on two major uncertainties.
  • Don't believe that you have to choose one particular scenario and build your strategy around it. Scenario planning is not about choosing just one option for the future but rather dealing with all of the possible outcomes to develop a strategy that will stand the test of all scenarios.
  • When developing your different scenarios, try to not look at the short term. Do not hesitate to look far ahead, anticipating what the market and competitors are going to be over the next years. 

Strategies for dealing with uncertainty in business
  • Use analytic techniques that don’t require high accuracy.
  • Prepare for multiple outcomes
  • Find and rely on the predictable elements of the situation
  • ...
Chaos Theory
Chaos Theory

Chaos Theory is a mathematical toolkit that allows us to extract ordered structures from chaos. The theory can reveal the intricate workings of such diverse natural systems as the beating of the hu...

Tiny variations vastly affect the outcome

Order on a small scale can produce chaos on a larger scale. In systems that behave without chaotic effects, small differences could eventually increase in size until they produce large effects - the hallmark of a chaotic system.

Meteorologist Edward Lorenz made this profound discovery when he attempted to predict the weather more accurately using a mathematical model. He found that rounding numbers off to three decimal places significantly changed the course of his weather predictions. Lorenz famously illustrated this effect with the analogy of a butterfly flapping its wings, thereby causing a hurricane formation elsewhere.

Understanding the butterfly effect

A good way to see the butterfly effect is with a game of billiards. No matter how consistent you are with the first shot, the smallest of differences in the speed and angle with which you strike the white ball will cause the balls to scatter in different directions every time.

What at first appears to be random behavior is completely deterministic. It only seems random because changes that are hardly noticeable are making all the difference.

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Information and decision making

The fact that we live in an age of information should allow us to make super-informed, data-driven decisions all the time.

But the widespread availability of information does no...

Snap judgments

Individuals fail to anticipate how little information they and others use when making decisions.

An the immediacy of human judgment generally surprises people: we are startled by how quickly we make judgments and how little information we use doing so.

Snap judgments

We fail to anticipate how little information we (and others) use when making decisions.

The immediacy of human judgment generally surprises people: we are startled by how quickly we make judgments and how little information we use doing so.

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The Fresh Start Effect
The Fresh Start Effect

During the new year, our birthday or even the start of a school year, most of us have a feeling of a fresh start, a new beginning.

These 'fresh start' moments provide us with a temporary m...

Unrealistic and Sudden Goals

We decide to suddenly start to follow our new daily routine, incorrectly assuming that suddenly we have changed, and are now a completely different and new person.

It is unrealistic to suddenly change from today to tomorrow; it's better to change in a gradual manner.

SMART Goals are Not Smart

Most of the books dealing with goal-setting talk about S.M.A.R.T. goal framework - goals that are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound.

While this is a good start, being time-bound in our new self-commitments has its drawbacks.

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