Loving Uncertainty

5 October 2007 2 By Viv McWaters

OK I know it’s a bit out-of-date, but I’ve been travelling.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.