Tag Archives: ambiguity

Welcome, Uncertainty!

I don’t think I have ever embarked upon a life-changing journey or experience without feeling apprehensive.  I don’t think I have ever felt fully or even adequately prepared.   Why is that? I’m not the kind of person to rush blindly into everything that momentarily catches my fancy, nor am I the kind to prepare so meticulously beforhand that I never actually get round to doing anything.

I suppose at some point I realised – as most people do eventually – that you can never fully prepare for the future.  You can gather information, you can weigh pros and cons, you can discuss and debate and ponder.  You can strategise, you can draw up your business plan, you can write your speech and book your flights. But then the economy collapses, the banks stop lending, the hecklers take over and an ash cloud rises… 

This feeling of not being fully in control of your future is scary.  But not being in control of the future does not mean that you cannot be in control of yourself – after all, the only person you can control.  Uncertainty, ambiguity, unknowns make fools of us all if we let them.  But if we learn how to respond to them, how to be the reed in the wind rather than a stiff branch ready to break, uncertainty becomes exhilarating.

It’s the same when you enter a new culture.  No matter how much cultural briefing you’ve had, you’ll never be fully equipped to handle any situation.   There will always be something you haven’t quite covered.  But if you’re prepared to handle uncertainty and ambiguity, you will be more ready to listen, ask questions, be flexible and learn.

‘Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.’  ( John Allen Paulos, professor of mathematics and probability)


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Entrepreneurialism: What Does It Mean?

The word ‘entrepreneur’ was coined back in the 18th century and has since entered our common understanding as ‘someone who risks things in order to purse an opportunity’.  It is the backbone of the capitalist society and I associate it with Weber’s Protestant work ethic, although you can have an excellent work ethic and still be short of ideas and passion… and thus not an entrepreneur.   Or at least not quite what we imagine an entrepreneur to be.  Long live our images of the ‘ideal entrepreneurs’, such as Richard Branson, Anita Roddick, Bill Gates and so on.

However, Stanford Professor Kathleen M. Eisenhardt’s definition of ‘entrepreneurship’ is more interesting: it’s about ‘organising and strategising in disequillibrium’.

Prof. Eisenhardt on Entrepreneurship

  Which seems to me to be a pretty good definition of great global leadership.  A nascent market, as Prof. Eisenhardt calls new, unproven markets, is very much like a new culture that you are trying to enter.   It’s like being taken out of your nice warm bubble-bath and plunged somewhere in the middle of the ocean.  In the dark.  In a fog.  You don’t know where you are, you can’t find your bearings, you can barely make out the sounds around you or know how to interpret them. 

Entrepreneurship is all about finding that market, giving it shape and clearly demarcating it.   Likewise, global leadership is about finding your limbs when plunged in that ocean, learning to navigate and starting to enjoy the swim.

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