The Vulnerability of Certainty

breather-168761“That’s MINE!” “I KNOW I’m right.” “Of COURSE that doesn’t make any sense.” “Why would we start doing it THAT way?”

From childhood to the boardroom we utter our declarations of certainty. So sure we’re right, we miss what’s in front of us. So important in our position, we fail to examine the data that could lead to new insights. So elevated in our longevity, we choose not to engage with those whom our decisions will impact. So assured our experience and wisdom supersedes the views of a new or different framework held by the young, we discount their input altogether.

Our certainty can be the one thing that creates our greatest vulnerability. Like a former camera manufacturer, we’re so fixated on being certain about our market share, we miss that our invention will be the thing that transforms a technology and put it on the shelf. It’s not the judgment call itself, it’s the arrogance of the certainty; taking our eyes off of possibility, and failing to return to the parking lot of potential to see if timing is right now.

With the call for leaders to continuously adapt, it’s not only exhausting today, it’s tempting to narrow our world, to want to push the pause button out of fear and the belief that what has worked will continue to work. That’s a form of toxic certainty.

We do not have the luxury of the gap anymore. On the one hand, we need the break from the rush of new information towards us in order to process and make reasonable choices. That’s very different from allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed or fearful, which presents itself as being certain in what exists now in order to avoid addressing what makes us challenged.

We trick ourselves into believing that certainty is safe. The only safe place is staying in the flow, piloting and testing new opportunities on a smaller scale, and remaining open. Being excited about a new solution or a new way of doing something is fantastic and should be celebrated in the moment. Deciding that it is always the framework to use, or the right solution, or that returning to the tried and tested is the only way, creates a vulnerability that could lead to quick extinction in our business world.

Next time you’re in a meeting, listen for the certainty. Push back. Test it. Find out what’s behind it. Is it solid data, market analysis, identification of a new technology, or customer or member insights? Or is it fear, exhaustion, or rigidity holding you to a present that will no longer serve your business model. Find out why your employees are so locked in to their opinions, insights, or beliefs and make them prove it to you. Safe and certain is not a business strategy.

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