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Backstory to: "When You're Slipping on Uncertainty, Follow Your Heart"
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Way, way back in time, in the decade now called The Eighties, I had three successive jobs related to “the future.” I moved from working as a Planning Analyst for an oil company to being the Planning Manager for a shipping line and ended the 1980s as the Corporate Planning Manager for a retail group.
During that same period, the ‘name’ for planning for the future changed from Long Range Planning to Strategic Planning to Strategic Management. How we approached the process of planning for the future also changed. (Come to think of it, I don’t know anybody who has planned for the past.)
Here’s what did not change. Uncertainty. In fact, things got more uncertain as our techniques improved. (Was there a direct correlation between the two?)
For many years I was a committee member of The Long Range Planning Society of South Africa, which then became The Strategic Management Society of South Africa. And for a period, I was the chair of the Strategic Management Society. I enjoyed being the "strategic" chair because it sounded so much better than being the chair of a long-range thingy.
Here’s why it sounded better to me. One word. The word “strategic.” That word made it clear that we were busy with things of great import. We concerned ourselves with Large Ideas dealing with Big Matters.
This was before boffins invented Big Data. Actually, Big Data existed before it was invented, but until someone discovered it by naming it, it did not really exist. Until then, we could not analyze it or use it.
This also meant that we happily played in a sandbox where future facts were few. Happily? Yes, because we had no illusions. We recognized uncertainty when we felt it. Happily? Yes, because the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, gave us permission to stop analyzing so much and to follow our hearts when messing about with Matters of Strategic Importance. (I did not know at the time that Freud had given us permission and I doubt that anyone else on that committee knew either).
What did Freud say? He said that when faced with small decisions, if you know the facts, you must make them consciously. But in large matters, where facts are missing and things are uncertain, you must follow your heart.
And so I did. And still do. Planning, long-range or strategic, be damned.
Below is the original blog post originally written in 2015:
When You're Slipping on Uncertainty, Follow Your Heart
I am grateful to Sigmund Freud. He has helped me out of many a predicament by giving me a socially acceptable excuse. (“It's my mother's fault. She didn't potty train me.”)
Of course, he has also gotten me into trouble by creating the Freudian Slip. I know he didn't create it, but he should have kept quiet about it. At least he made up for that slip up by giving us the mother of all excuses. So Mr. Freud wins one and loses one.
However, he came up with a real winner when he suggested a method for dealing with uncertainty and decision-making. Here's what he proposed.
All small decisions, if you know the facts, should be dealt with consciously. But in large matters, where facts are missing and things are uncertain, you must follow your heart.
But then, it's in following my heart that I make Freudian slips.
Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.
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