5. The Enemy Within, the purveyor of uncertainty


The attached to link to an article titled “The Enemy Within” by Stanley Bing (http://money.cnn.com/2014/02/06/leadership/bing-enemy-within.pr.fortune/index.html?section=magazines_fortune} in the 24 Feb. 2014 edition of Fortune Magazine made me smile. The article so eloquently outlined a perspective I have held for some time now that a major reason we encounter uncertainty is because of what we do, especially, potentially self destructive behaviours. Stanley puts this in a humorous, but no less painfully poignant manner: “Why do we get in our own way? And why won’t someone stop us?“.

Stanley goes on in the article to recount several examples that he has witnessed over the years and concludes that: “The world is the way it is because a lot of people careen forward doing exactly what will ensure their destruction, and the people who should be helping them don’t“. If I have any quibble with his conclusion I would substitute “could” for “should”.

From my frame of reference I would consider that these self inflicted mishaps are examples of “better ensuring” our meeting some our more possible uncertainties. The term possibilities may suggest that we are dealing with risks (possibilities suggests odds), but I would argue against this for the following reasons:

  • There is a true sense of blindness to the consequences these behaviours for those who engage in them. I would go further that this is in large part of self inflicted too – unwilling to consider the undesired consequences of ones actions. Even if we acknowledge the consequences, we treat them as hypothetical or not applying to ourselves especially. The ignorant will walk into uncertainty and be surprised by it, but we are all ignorant about a lot of things. It is when we inflict ignorance upon ourselves that we lead tragic lives.
  • The notion of possibilities in these cases mean that we are not dealing with random uncertainty events. There is a cause and effect underpinning to what and why these unfortunate events happen. Potentially, any non random uncertain like event may have been anticipated, foreseen and mitigated prior to its occurrence. Science, logic and other reasoning practices could have helped.

The cruel irony though, is if did not “unwittingly” act out self destructive behaviours we could have been dealing with risk like situations, NOT uncertain ones. This is where the advantage and role of the adjacent observer comes in. They often can and do see the behaviour for what it is: self inflicted adding uncertainty to our lives and because they were often more risk like in the first place. more likely to occur when ignored or even blindly pandering to.

So why don’t our observers of our self destructiveness stop us? Many reasons I suspect: don’t know how, don’t believe it is their place to do so, know/believe it won’t be taken well if offered, has never worked previously, etc.

In subsequent posts I will elaborate on the myriad ways we can self inflict increased uncertainty upon our lives.

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About 123stilllearning456

As a management consultant I am passionately interested in talent management and risk/uncertainty issues. In the area of talent management I propose that we seek strategies that look beyond the staffing/employee centric frames of reference. I have been frustrated at the "closing down on possibilities" by these more conventional staffing/employee centric approaches. I have been impressed where people have found systematic solutions to their talent management issues by going beyond the conventional approaches. In the area of risk and uncertainty, I am interested in making this topic relevant to more normal decision making situations. My conceptual foundation is to use the micro-economist's fixed/variable cost theme. I also think it is important to look at these issues for people through their emotional and psychological lens. As a premise I think risk and uncertainty only exist where there is a person who cares about possible events and its consequences. Hence, risk and uncertainty are social based concepts (no sentience, no risk and uncertainty). A major influence on my thinking in this area is Nassim Taleb of "Black Swan" fame. This BLOG provides me with an opportunity to express my thoughts on topics that interest me. As this is an online diary, content is more important to me than polish. I apologize if this distracts from readers' enjoyment and learning. Still I find this a useful way to live up to my namesake, learn more from others and hopefully provoke creative thoughts and ideas in others.
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