When you are facing a future that cannot be predicted with any accuracy, traditional approaches for problem solving (e.g., forecasting, planning, in-depth research) don’t help you much. You need to acknowledge that and find alternatives, according to Charles Kiefer, Leonard Schlesinger and Paul Brown in their book Own Your Future: How to Think Like an Entrepreneur and Thrive in an Unpredictable Economy.
For the majority of people who are not natural entrepreneurs, the thought of an unpredictable future in which carefully laid plans and investments might be wasted is not a comfortable one. The authors say that essentially everyone will be facing this dilemma, other than skilled tradesmen, people who can live with how their profession is evolving, and people who can coast safely into the sunset.
What is the best way to go about surfing on a sea of uncertainty? According to the authors, we need to copy the typical steps of a successful entrepreneur in what they call the ALBR process:
- Act: Work out what you want to do, and act by quickly taking a small step towards your goal using whatever means you have at hand.
- Learn: After taking the small step, stop to see what you have learned.
- Build: Use what you have learned as a foundation for your next steps.
- Repeat: Keep following these steps until you are happy with the result or you decide you don’t want or can’t afford to continue.
I suspect that a typical non-entrepreneur who reads the book won’t take a lot of comfort in the ALBR formula. The authors are obviously a lot more comfortable with uncertainty than the typical non-entrepreneur. The book still doesn’t tell you where you should go or where safety can be found, because there is very little safety in a rapidly changing business environment. But if your ship is sinking you are much more likely to survive if you are generating options for action rather than living in denial.