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When you focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and improves performance. Instead, they focus all their attention and effort on what they can do, in spite of the uncertainty, to better their situation. Our ancestors relied on their intuition—their gut instinct—for survival. Often we make the mistake of talking ourselves out of listening to our gut instinct, or we go too far in the other direction and impulsively dive into a situation, mistaking our assumptions for instincts.

People who successfully deal with uncertainty recognize and embrace the power of their gut instincts, and they rely on some tried-and-true strategies to do so successfully:. They recognize their own filters. They give their intuition some space. They build a track record.

Environmental Decisions in the Face of Uncertainty | The National Academies Press

People who deal well with uncertainty take the time to practice their intuition. Staying on top of uncertainty is as much about planning for failure as it is about hoping for the best. They know how to absorb and understand mistakes so that they can make better decisions in the future. And they never let mistakes get them down for too long.

Decision Point Online

You have to remain calm to make good decisions in the face of uncertainty. An easy way to do this lies in something that you have to do every day anyway—breathing.

How environmental uncertainty affects the link between business strategy and performance

The practice of being in the moment with your breathing trains your brain to focus solely on the task at hand and quiets distracting thoughts. Close the door, put away all other distractions, and just sit in a chair and breathe. The goal is to spend the entire time focused only on your breathing, which will prevent your mind from wandering. Think about how it feels to breathe in and out.

Environmental decisions in the face of uncertainty

If staying focused on your breathing proves to be a real struggle, try counting each breath in and out until you get to twenty, and then start again from one. The ability to strategically manage ambiguity is one of the most important skills you can cultivate in an increasingly uncertain business environment. Try the strategies above, and your ability to handle uncertainty will take a huge step in the right direction.


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Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the 1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than countries. Travis Bradberry , President, TalentSmart. The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum. I accept. Drive to change behaviors. Learning faster also means acknowledging failure and error. Of course if errors are going to be a font of faster learning, they need to be reported and shared.

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When Petraeus learned a U. In my case, it even went to the Secretary of Defense and the President. The President and I apologized to the President and Prime Minister of Iraq, and that helped limit the damage, along with redoubled training on the need for sensitivity to religious, cultural, and ethnic issues.

Businesses that face uncertainty also need culture that socializes errors. Give less guidance, and save it for the big issues. In uncertainty, more decisions need to be made by those closest to new information. Does this mean managers at the top of the organization get a break? They need to be focused on attracting the right people and training them to make the right decisions. To manage the uncertainty that characterizes counterinsurgency, Petraeus made changes. He emphasized aggressive live-fire exercises, with scenarios that varied widely.

For decentralized authority to succeed, senior managers need to reinforce core principles to guide newly empowered decision-makers.

I work often in remote regions, where front-line managers are far from headquarters. The best of these operations rely less on policies or procedures, and more on basic values that establish a culture. Celtel and Econet were two pioneering African mobile phone networks, operating in geographies that defined uncertainty, and where corruption often succeeded. The way in which uncertainties are approached, handled, managed, has become a central issue, in particular in numerous scientific debates that have overflowed to the general public, such as those concerning the precautionary principle.

In , Foncsi launched a call for scientific proposals to better understand how, in practice, players varyingly affected by risky activities, perceive and process uncertainty and more especially, how they deal with it.

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The aim is to determine how people react to uncertainty when assessing situations, forming opinions and making decisions, and how they go about creating the conditions necessary to take action in uncertain environments. They come from a variety of scientific fields - psychology, sociology, management, industrial engineering and nuclear engineering - and cover topics from different areas of study: risk prevention in Seveso facilities, the management of a flu-like pandemic, group decisions in a hospital environment, medication development in the pharmaceutical sector.

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