Turn uncertainty into success

The Downside of Uncertainty: A Guide to Finding Possibilities in the Unknown

by Nathan Furr and Susannah Harmon Furr, Harvard Business Review Press, 2022

Wherever you turn, uncertainty seems to be growing. Navigate climate projections, workforce instability, new diseases, political and economic uncertainty. The digitization of everything is monetizing our attention and wiping out stable industries. For the average person, burdened by the weight of uncertainty, it has become more difficult to negotiate even the smallest of everyday decisions. The simple act of choosing your morning coffee requires sifting through an endless menu to choose from. And for a career? Ever-evolving ways of working make any decision about what technical skills to master and the areas to pursue a full skill. It is therefore not surprising that recent research points to the growing need of individuals to not only accept uncertainty but also create a satisfying life in the face of it.

So let’s argue Nathan and Susannah Harmon Furr in their new book, The Downside of Uncertainty, a smart self-help resource for those of us who need a guiding hand in uncertain times. The authors are husband and wife, respectively a professor at INSEAD (an international business school based in France) and an entrepreneur, designer, art historian, and self-proclaimed contrarian. Their supposedly hopeful and practically helpful guide provides B-school entrepreneurs and students with a carefully crafted set of guidelines if over-crammed to lead a better life.

They write: “Every insight, choice, action and innovation emerges only after a period of uncertainty. “And the uncertainty brought by every mistake, failure, discouragement, and even disaster has the potential to be in it.” So take your phone — you don’t have to run away from this existential challenge of modern life.

The uncertainty brought about by every mistake, failure, discouragement, and even disaster has the potential to happen within it. “

Instead, you can follow Furrs’ four-point model to tackle it directly: Reframe, Prime, Do, and Sustain. Each of those four actions comes with a set of tools. Refactoring tools help you think more creatively about challenges and see potential benefits and opportunities within them. Primers help you prepare to act on those opportunities. Working tools give you the traction to unlock their full promise. Finally, retention tools “provide comfort and remind you why and how to move on.” These tools can help broaden your sense of possibility, essentially allowing you to consider options that may at first seem unrealistic. They have helped the authors think more realistically about moving to Europe, for example, by helping to clarify the trade-offs involved in living abroad.

These four pillars bring together 260 pages of a lengthy debate generated by research dating back to the early 2000s, including interviews and insights from renowned thinkers like Amos Tversky and Daniel. Kahneman, Malcolm Gladwell, Adam Grant, Carol Dweck and Angela Duckworth, and from entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. The Furrs regularly exploited Bezos’ famous decision to scrap a successful career at hedge fund DE Shaw to launch the crazy idea of ​​selling books over the internet, a move the authors cite as: proof that believing in one’s unproven vision can lead to a life of fulfillment beyond imagination.

The authors’ unwavering optimism underlines an aspirational message. These pages are filled with stories of heroic individuals who overcame adversity – creating uncertainty – by thinking reflectively and believing in themselves. The authors’ exemplars have scored on venture capital, starting a successful company, navigating a new career as an award-winning chef or artist, and, in the case study favorite typical of Furrs, founded a pioneering e-commerce company.

The Downside of Uncertainty offers useful lessons and, perhaps most importantly, gives anyone struggling with an uncertain future the courage to persevere. The book also contains helpful insights into changing one’s perspective during difficult times, describing business experiences that can help astute thinkers take advantage of potential opportunities. For example, emphasizing when there is uncertainty, even the risk of failure; see failure as an opportunity to learn and adapt; harness the resources and skills at hand instead of investing too deeply in pre-test research; and entrepreneurial mindset by leveraging existing resources in new ways. They cite the example of Pokémon Go, created by a multiplayer game designer and digital mapping expert who helped create what became Google Maps. He realized that Google Maps’ geofencing technology could be paired with Pokémon characters to create an immersive augmented reality game. Likewise, the founders of Traveling Spoon, a start-up that connects food-focused travelers with local home cooks, saw business potential looming in their visions. evident when a local woman shares a delicious homemade meal with them in Mexico.

While useful on a tactical level, the book could benefit from being more concise, as its most important message can be buried under the sheer volume of material. For example, the rich examples of successful individuals who have weathered the ravages of uncertainty are inspirational, but they are ultimately based on the book’s simple premise that accepting uncertainty can certainly lead people to success: how many people want Bezos to be crushed by following his example? Indeed, the book rarely addresses the dark side of uncertainty by showing how to face failure, set realistic goals, or learn to accept and love what is already there.

Instead, authors sell readers with a narrow vision of success. Think of those memorable Instagram images of a vacation in Provence. Their book is a carefully crafted guide to the Best Life, lived by individuals who confuse more with better, who equate inner spiritual wealth with sipping. a nice glass of white wine at a castle. It is read too often as the ideal of an MBA’s overwhelming success.

For some readers, the reverence the book has for the finer things in life may undermine its core message, but for those that may surpass controversial standards. its to succeed, this book can be a useful guide to living and working in the modern world.

Author profile:

  • Tom Ehrenfeld is a freelance writer and editor based in Cambridge, Mass. Formerly a writer/editor with Inc. magazine and Harvard Business Reviewhe is also the author of Startup Garden. He has written extensively on lean business; Nine books he has edited have won the Shingo Publishing Award.

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