Hello Leader,

The vortex of change is supersonic. 2011 has already produced more surprises in three months than most years do in twelve. Nothing is impossible. It's a VUCA world - volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous - and within the chaos there are extraordinary opportunities. How do you organize yourself or your company to respond to unknowns? How resilient are you when faced with new challenges and opportunities? This KEY reflects on three known unknowns and asks you to focus on your resilience.

Listen to our podcast about meeting the future with future apps. Please forward this KEY to friends, family and associates.


Aviv Shahar

Three Known Unknowns

Mother Nature, the Market and the Middle East are the three big known unknowns. Mother Nature just revealed again her unhindered power in the tectonic shift that caused the devastating 9.0 earthquake in Japan, which resulted in a Tsunami that knocked out several nuclear plants. The Market, too, is again showing its unhindered, volatile, and seductive nature. And the Middle East is in flames, undergoing transformational revolts. We know a lot about these three but we do not know how they will surprise us next; hence, known unknowns.

In ancient times Mother Nature was the Market. She produced and delivered abundance and created scarcity. The prevailing attitudes of the ancients were forbearance, surrender and acceptance. But in just two centuries of industrial and technological revolutions we have reversed the tide, or so we thought. We've turned the Market into Mother Nature. It was meant to produce and deliver abundance. In spite of periods of uncertainty and fear, the march to modernity seduced us into feeling confident and self-assured to the point of believing we have it all under control. At least you get this feeling listening to most TV news anchors. There is always this tone of amazement as to why we cannot control or prevent these events and a bewildering expectation that we should be able to resolve Mother Nature, the Market and the Middle East by next Monday.

But TV anchors and their writers mirror the ignorant and arrogant sentiments of the public at large. We are upset that Mother Nature, the Market and geopolitical events in the Middle East will not comply the way we believe they should. And when they don't, we project a childish judgment upon the prowess of a presidency or a nation.

Clearly, the Middle East, the Market and Mother Nature are undergoing massive changes not governable by any one person or system, including even the US president. And it's the illusion of control that is being tossed away because all three seem to be at a climatic inflection point which shakes and rattles our world view.

Critical Inflection Point
The Market reached a critical inflection point as decades of supply-driven environment gave way to the culmination of demand-driven dynamics. With billions of people escaping poverty to modern and middle class life styles - all desiring the good life of freedom and mobility - the demands are enormous. And they are rapidly growing. Scarce resources and commodities will increasingly shape market trends for years to come.

Mother Nature, too, seems to be demanding more respect and that we attend to her sustainable health after decades of unbridled exploitation. As we continue to propagate and populate, and create higher and greater expectations for mobility and prosperity, Mother Nature is letting us know that we need to attend to the environment and find ways to consume energy safely and cleanly.

The Middle East and the Arab world have reached an inflection point, too. The people are expressing their unhappiness and dissatisfaction with their governments; their demands and desires of Jeffersonian rights will not go away.

From supply to demand, the change is massive in each of these three. In fact, change is massive in every other place you look. What was is no more. The rules are shifting like tectonic plates, first slowly, and then violently. If you don't adapt, if you are not prepared to move swiftly to higher ground, you may find yourself consumed by the tsunami of change.

Your Future Apps
The first challenge of change is letting go. You have to let go of what you know. You need to let go of preconceived ideas of what should and must be. And you have to be prepared to observe and assimilate new data without "shoulding" all over it.

The second challenge is to not react based on yesterday but respond in context of a new emerging situation. A course of action based on three-week-old data may be and probably is outdated. It is an ambiguous world. Last year's strategy will not deliver today's desired results. Old solutions are not sufficient. Yesterday's creativity is too narrow. You need new solutions, new strategies and new creativity. To meet the challenges and opportunities ahead you need new thinking, new ideas, new holistic perceptions and innovative breakthroughs. To meet the future you need future apps.

A shift from a supply to a demand environment is a swing from abundance to scarcity. In the face of scarcity, we must find new abundance to meet the challenges ahead. The Federal Reserve translates this insight into Quantitive Easing, hoping an abundance of liquidity will get the economy and job market going. But we need to find in ourselves other forms of abundance to transform the complex challenges we face into opportunities. We need abundance of collaboration, abundance of innovation, and abundance of purpose. And we need to find abundance of resilience. Resilience is not bouncing back to an old equilibrium. Resilience is bouncing forward to a new one. Resilience is drawing the map of your journey as you go.

Look at your own situation. Identify where you are holding outdated views and maps. How flexible, agile and resilient are you in your work and with your team and people? This is what you are called to do: to lead with resilience; to lead with collaboration; to lead with innovation, and, yes, to lead with purpose.

Now it's your turn. Turn the Key. Engage with the massive change around you. Become a catalyst of new ideas and innovation. Develop and lead resilience. Turn setbacks into new opportunities. Create the future for you and your people.

© Aviv Shahar