A very basic understanding and why we struggle for control
Photo: From Think Again by Adam Grant
I am intrigued by the concept of risk and uncertainty. It began last year when I stumbled unto “An Economist Walks Into a Brothel” by Alison Schraeger. Having worked in and around banks and finance for a while, you’d imagine that I had a fair grasp of the subject matter. I was totally flummoxed.
Bit by bit, I started to tunnel down the rabbit hole and I finally found my way to the works of Nicholas Taleb and Annie Duke. I know there’s probably so much more out there, but what little I have learnt so far has been absolutely fascinating. Which brings me to my reflection for the day.
Certainty does not exist.
This is plain enough, and should be simple enough to sit neatly in our daily reality. However, it’s just not that easy for us. Like we’re wired differently (I almost typed “wrong”). Much of what we do in our lives as individuals, even more so in the context of work and organisations, seems built on the premise that we can create certainty.
Isn’t that what some of the rave about data and analytics seems to be? That if I just have enough (read tons and tons) of data, and apply the right analysis, I can engineer an outcome. Guarantee a sale, perfectly predict ability to pay back a loan, get to sign up, hit like, share, send, etc. And there’s an extent to which this is right. Yup, an “extent”. Uncertainty returns resolutely into the narrative.
There’s obviously a whole dimension of complex mathematical calculations and statical simulations, and forecasts and models and whatnots that go into this. I’m not that smart. But from where I stand, I continue to see with increasing clarity that there is very limited room for arrogance. For every outcome we witness, there are simply too many variables outside out control.
Uncertainty should make us humble.