Loving Uncertainty

October 5th, 2007

OK I know it’s a bit out-of-date, but I’ve been travelling. An article in the August 4 edition of New Scientist is titled ‘Can we learn to love uncertainty?’ by David Malone, an independent documentary film-maker.

He argues that certainty precludes further thinking. If we’re sure of something, we don’t need to think about it any more. A dangerous thing indeed. And probably even more alarming is the notion that we shouldn’t do anything until we are certain. We hear our politicians saying this from time to time to justify inaction. At the moment I’m hearing this in relation to climate change.

As a facilitator, I believe there’s not such a big leap from ‘certainty’ to ‘the right answer’. People in workshops wanting to come up with ‘the right answer’ are at best a nuisance, and at worst, delusional. It also represents an unrealistic expectation that a facilitated event can do what can’t be done in the ‘real’ world. All we can do is respond in the best possible way to the here and now, recognising the complexity of the system we’re operating in and knowing that even the intervention, however small, will change the system. Our hope is that that change is a positive one.

2 Comments so far

  1. Matt Moore on October 9, 2007 7:45 pm

    But there must be a right answer. There was at school. And you, Ms Facilitator, must be hiding it from us. Where is it???

    Loving uncertainty requires that we unlearn our obsession with certainty and also that we can cope with the anxiety that uncertainty generates.

    I’d love to hear more about how facilitators can help with that.

  2. Viv McWaters on October 10, 2007 11:20 am

    Good question Matt – at heart I think we’re ALL control freaks. Life would be much simpler with certainty. And how can facilitators help with that? Hmmmmm….

    Facilitators, or some of them, provide space to explore and boundaries to provide focus – completely open exploration with no boundaries is fun, but not very practical in organisations. I use improv principles to drive my response to uncertainty:
    – accept offers (and see where it takes you)
    – do something! – move on, use action, take a different persepective
    – take risks – try something new/different to the norm: what’s the worst that can happen?

    What facilitators can do to help others is model this.

Name (required)

Email (required)


Speak your mind

This blog is kept spam free by WP-SpamFree.