Business Executives: It is time to turn uncertainty into an opportunity

Read the story of a Family called Voraus X who faced uncertainty in all aspects of their lives during the pandemic and get a new perspective on the uncertainty facing the world nowadays including supply chain crisis.

Authors

Ali Rebaie
Ali Rebaie
Ali Rebaie is the President of Rebaie Analytics Group and a data anthropologist studying the impact of AI on business and life.

Family Voraus X, living in the 21st century, is made of two business executives, two sons and daughter. They begin their day taking kids to school, commuting to work by the riverside, arriving at their desks and doing business as usual.

Who would have thought that a “black swan” event would change that routine and give rise to questions Voraus X family didn’t expect would come through…

Family Voraus X and Uncertainty

Uncertainty started at home, in pandemic times, as they tried to approach a question from kids: Mom, Dad, when will our schools reopen? An uncertainty that continues to their commute as we get the news that lorry drivers are not providing petrol to fuel stations. 

And even if they manage to arrive at their office new challenges are coming to the table: How long will the container ship take to arrive and how much is the number of products in it? Is it because of the Covid-19 pandemic, shortage in containers, or lorry driver shortage causing UK’s petrol stations closures and stockpiling? Why is there a supply chain crisis? Is supply chain affected by COVID-19? All these questions are legitimate in the current supply chain crisis for any business executive, not only Voraus X. 

Indeed, we have been living in globalization and lean manufacturing that resulted in complex, global multi-tier, and fragmented supply networks and reduced (optimized) inventory levels. However, for any business executive, it is one thing that matters now: managing uncertainty i.e. How can we predict the shortage in supply?

However, predicting shortage is not even enough, it is how you use that prediction to gain advantage over your competitors. Harvard Business Review describes this as:  “organizational resilience, the ability of an organization to successfully confront the unforeseen, has always been a core element of success. Supply chain resilience no longer implies merely the ability to manage risk. It now assumes that the ability to manage risk means being better positioned than competitors to deal with—and even gain advantage from—disruptions”.

However, before starting to develop your strategy to become a resilient enterprise and manage uncertainty, you first need to define it and see how to translate it into behavior in your business. And, once it becomes part of your organization’s behavior and social learning culture, you can then start utilizing your predictions to gain advantage from disruptions. 

Defining Uncertainty:

One of the best definitions I came across comes from the Austrian philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein who likes to put it: “Wer an allem zweifeln wollte, der würde auch nicht bis zum Zweifel kommen. Das Spiel des Zweifelns selbst setzt schon die Gewißheit voraus”. If you tried to doubt everything you would not get as far as doubting anything. The game of doubting itself presupposes certainty. One cannot begin to doubt without being certain, without first believing a set of propositions to be true.  

Take Voraus X kids’ question as an example, they learn by believing us at first, doubt would come after their belief. There should be a foundation for uncertainty as it is not universal. It needs a tolerable measure of certainty. This certainty will be the base that businesses can rely upon to face any similar future crisis.

How to translate uncertainty into behavior in your business?

The whole point of doubting and uncertainty is to use it as a vehicle for behavioral change, to reach certainty.  In order for certainty to become a behavior, it should be accompanied by affection and not only cognition. 

 

Family Voraus X and Uncertainty

The anthropological perspective bolsters the above thought.  Ethnography is seen as a technology for an anthropologist’s imagination, and anthropologists also think of uncertainty as a “technology of the imagination”, disruption, surrender, and moving beyond. Thus, enabling us not just to imagine but also to improvise, change, and intervene. In a nutshell, it enables us to respond creatively to the world.

Let’s follow Family Voraus X family’s journey through these uncertain times, In the next blog, I’ll tell you how a visit to a retail shop in Munich, Germany was followed by tremendous bottlenecks that affected supply chains globally while focusing my lens on the German landscape.  If you keep following Voraus X family series, you’ll be able to broaden your perspective about supply chain crisis solutions, understand the different ways/layers for building a resilient enterprise and managing uncertainty with the help of industry 4.0 and automation, in addition to the, often overlooked, cultural and behavioral change in organizations, and how would this help you and especially my executives audience make use of such disruptions.

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