Published
Oct 7, 2020
Reading time
1 min read
How to Manage Uncertainty

Dear friends,

There’s a lot we don’t know about the future: When will a Covid-19 vaccine be available? Who will win the next election? Or in a business context, how many customers will we have next year?

With so many changes going on in the world, many people are feeling stressed about the future. I have a practice that helps me regain a sense of control. Faced with uncertainty, I try to:

  • Make a list of plausible scenarios, acknowledging that I don’t know which will come to pass.
  • Create a plan of action for each scenario.
  • Start executing actions that seem reasonable.
  • Review scenarios and plans periodically as the future comes into focus.

For example, back in March, I did this scenario planning exercise. I imagined quick (three months), medium (one year), and slow (two years) recoveries from Covid-19 and made plans for managing each case. These plans have helped me prioritize where I can.

The same method can apply to personal life, too. If you’re not sure you’ll pass an exam, get a job offer, or be granted a visa — all of which can be stressful — you can write out what you’d do in each of the likely scenarios. Thinking through the possibilities and following through on plans can help you navigate the future effectively no matter what it brings.

Bonus: With a training in AI and statistics, you can calculate a probability to each scenario. I’m a fan of the Superforecasting methodology, in which the judgements of many experts are synthesized into a probability estimate. I refer to this site as a source of probability estimates as well.

There will always be uncertainty, but with a little discipline, imagination, and foresight, we can still move forward with confidence.

Keep learning!

Andrew

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