To follow the lead of a previous post regarding the unknown being an 800 lb gorilla, several people have asked me about “how do you deal with the unknown?” So, today is a how to of dealing with the unknown or uncertainty.
We need to become comfortable with the concept of contingency planning. This is a form of creativity being applied to the planning process or the classic “what if …” application of dealing with possibilities. Think of it as simply looking at alternative courses of action.
Being prepared by thinking about possible scenarios of events is the mark of true winners and the best leaders. Why? Because they prepare in advance for the possible changes in the current environment. This allows for individuals and leaders to remain calm in the face of chaos in the eyes of others. Calmness in the face of adversity is a characteristic of great leaders.
Napoleon Bonaparte was a great strategist who was prepared for multiple contingencies as a General of the French army. He thought about every possibility that could occur during a battle and developed a plan to deal with it if it happened. Thus, he has very successful for an extended period of time – when longevity was not a given.
Just thinking about all the things that leaders worry about as they run their organizations. And several classics come to mind:
- What Strategy should we use?;
- How do we execute our plans effectively?;
- How do we grow our Sales in this economy?;
- How do we get and keep the human talent needed for the competitive future?; and,
- How do we innovate our products and services for the future?
While the above list of issues will keep many executives and leaders up at night worrying about the answers, the real 800 lb. Gorilla comes in an invisible format called the unknown.
In a world that strives for consistently and needed objective data to solve the problems and issues connected to the future, the unknown brings a humbling attitude to this group. The fact that there are unknown problems, issues or challenges – some in the form of “surprise, I’m here now, so what are you going to do now?” – take the spirit away from many of these powerful people.
The fact is there is more “unknown” issues than there are known. So how can you deal with these unknown events? Simple. You explore the unknown areas as often as possible. The more you venture into the areas of the unknown the faster you actually learn about the issues and the faster you can apply the appropriate solution and move forward.
If you are not continuously learning and exploring the unknown, it will overtake you and leave you painted into a corner with no where to go, no options to choose, and no alternative answers for the questions. A continuous learning program will keep you in the forefront of knowledge and information – actually providing the wisdom necessary to succeed.
Use the unknown as a motivator to take action. This habit of taking action will give you a head start when the unknown jumps up and scares everyone else. You will be able to take the lead, take action and get the results before the 800 lb. Gorilla can destroy your organization. Think of the unknown being a good thing that gets us started down the path of continuous improvement and growth.