The ability to approach ambiguity with curiosity may be the most valuable skill in the next decade - and perhaps beyond. A WSJ article with some good examples. Jim Collins calls it the core of entrepreneuring in his recent article, How to thrive in these crazy times. He claims that we live in an ambigious world anyway, so accepting that fact is actually less risky that choosing an illusory path that appears to minimize ambiguity.
We are now, I think, having to adjust to dealing with a world that is going to be ferocious. We don't have any practice with that. People like me who grew up in the postwar period are not practiced at the volatilities, the turbulence, the uncertainties of the world that will probably define the second half of my life.
It is only in times like these that you get a chance to show your strength. In the end, I think we need to have absolute faith in our ability to deal with whatever is thrown at us. And we need to have a complete, realistic paranoia that a lot can be thrown at us. It's our ability to put those two contradictory ideas together: We need to be prepared for what we can't predict and, at the same time, have this total, unwavering faith that we will find a way to deal with all of it. And I believe we will. I don't believe the world will treat us well, but we will figure out how to do very well.
As a Business Anthropologist, I've been asking myself what are the skills that will enable Leaders to thrive in the new economic reality? What could make our enterprises resilient? People don't like uncertainty. The brain shuts down, rather than responding with the ingenuity that we need at this moment. However, those skills can be cultivated; we are blessed with the potential for Neuroplaticity. And brain researchers have made good progress showing what's required to be smarter in uncertain times.
Collins is optimistic. So am I. A number of leaders are stepping up to use this moment to build a better world, and many are willing to learn new skills.
What has changed if you're building a business now, as opposed to 10, 20, or 30 years ago?
The skills. You need to be continually learning. For example, if you accept the idea that work is infinite and time is finite, you realize you have to manage your time and not your work. You need a laserlike focus on doing first things first. And that means having a ferocious understanding of what you are not going to do. The question used to be which phone call you wouldn't take. Now, it's the discipline not to have your e-mail on. The skill is knowing how to sift through the blizzard of information that hits you all the time.
Not your grandfather's skill set? Maybe not. But, one thing hasn't changed since your grandfather's time, and far before that: the power of knowing what you're commited to. As Collins points out, if you know who you want to serve and how you want them to benefit, you can stay curious. You can be resilient. That's how to thrive in these crazy times.
Don't worry. Be curious about how to serve.