I’m not going all the way on this. I still believe Certainty has its place in the fear-conquering world. But striving for Certainty is not always the best option. Sometimes you need to recognize the inherent unpredictability of a situation and expect things to go in unpredictable directions. The key is to adopt the mindset that you will stay in touch with the evolving nature of the situation and be Responsive. When you hold a strong principal in your heart and mind, a clear purpose, you can find several ways to fulfill it as you respond to reality. Sounds a little bit strange at first but complex situations need to be handled in the love-based world because it is here that we focus on meaning rather than direction. You take in what is and respond to it in a way that is still in line with your ultimate purpose. There is a great TED talk on jazz improv that looks at how to apply this concept to business and increase creativity. It shows the shift in mindset beautifully.
Airports are a classic example of this principle. People and weather are not predictable. The system is designed to be able to respond to unexpected outcomes while holding the intention of getting people to their destinations in a timely and safe manner (this is the ultimate meaning or purpose). This is achieved by noticing when an unpredictable event has occurred and building in the ability to respond to it. There are tracking devices that give information of when a person checked in, and gate keepers that ensure passengers are at the right section of the airport. There are big boards that inform people of any changes to their flight departure or baggage claim area. I was stuck in a long line at airport security, way later than I should have been, and an Air North representative met me as I pulled my computer from the security conveyor belt and whisked me to my flight in a golf cart. We actually departed ten minutes ahead of schedule. This would not happen if it was assumed that people would show up when and where they were told to and planes will take off when they are scheduled to. Only with a responsive and interactive system can you deliver an effective air transport service because there are so many unpredictable interactions.
Relationships are another great example. We wouldn’t parent by handing our children a manual as soon as they have reading ability. There is lots of uncertainty in parenting and you’ll do well to accept this. You don’t know how they are going to turn out, you just know that you love them and you want to give them a good start. How you do this is a constantly evolving process. The best moments are often when they surprise you.
The environment is also a complex system that creates unpredictable interactions. Water responds to whatever situation it encounters always knowing it will reach the ocean eventually. This is the kind of responsive system we need to develop in order to effectively protect the environment. The regulatory system makes the mistake of offering a set of hoops that a company has to jump through in exchange for a licence that offers certainty that a company can complete their project according to their plan. There is a built in incentive not to discover any flaws in the model that was proposed in the early stages because it triggers delays and expensive adjustments.
What if the system was designed with a recognition that models will be flawed and the goal is early detection and adjustment so the impacts are small. Adjustments should be made throughout the monitoring program as site specific numbers can test the model and show the variability over time. Everyone involved needs to hold the same fundamental purpose in what they are doing and then make individual decisions that reflect that value throughout the system.
Certainty is a great concept when it comes to accountability and safety procedures and work ethic. It can also create blind spots that result in relationship damage, or environmental damage, among other detrimental affects.