If the brain thrives on certainty, we must intentionally create environments and situations that both allow and force us to engage and grapple with uncertainty, if we are to gain the capacity that pushes us towards change that leads to transformation.
For transformation to occur, to really occur, we have to begin to create organizational environments where the willingness to ask “what if” moves us from greater awareness, to collective action around and toward a better vision for the future…
For this is much deeper than just risk-taking.
It is embracing a willingness to move past the constant exploitation and amplification of the known, of what we’ve always done, in order to intentionally engage with the unknown and explore uncertainty. Spending time in this arena, grappling with thinking and ideas beyond our current awareness and understandings, allows us to stretch and even unlearn the frames by which our current mental models are held in place.
For this is where new learning and new knowledge is created.
As individuals and organizations, we need to both explore and engage more “what if” questions that require us to create the mental scenarios that allow us to anticipate, forecast, and even prepare more effectively for the future, and what the future might require of us and our organizations.
We have to approach “what if” collectively…
What if we knew that we were going to be facing a possible dystopian future with automation and artificial intelligence causing major job displacement and economic upheaval, how would we decide to change our organizations and systems?
What if we knew that our current way of operating as an organization would be determined irrelevant and would face major disruption in the next two years, how would we decide to change our organization and our systems?
What if we knew that the content and skills we were teaching our students would be determined to be disconnected towards helping them find future success in a quickly changing world, how would we decide to change our organizations and systems?
What if we knew that the only way to thrive effectively in the future as individuals and organizations, required ongoing and continuous learning and change, how would that change our organizations and systems?
What if we knew that the way forward for individual and organizational success in the future required greater emotional intelligence, empathy, creativity, inventiveness, curiosity, how would we decide to change our organizations and systems?
What if we knew what the future would require of us and our organizations, would we be willing to change ourselves, our organizations, and our systems?
It is in our questions, much more than our answers, that we truly begin to determine a vision of what transformation may look like, both individually and organizationally.
And yet, what we often fail to realize, both individually and organizationally, is that even when we know the dire outcomes of an unwillingness to change, when we know that status quo thinking and doing will lead us into eventual irrelevance or worse, we still cling to the known, of what we’ve always done.
Too often, the fear of the unknown keeps us grounded in the irrelevance of the known.
Framing the future in fear is not going to create the change necessary to move us and our organizations forward more effectively. Rather, we need to create new frames, new scenarios of a much more positive future, by allowing our “what if” questions to paint a picture of what we could become, of a better way forward, and a better future for us all.
In the end, always remember, if we never ask what if, we will always be left with what is.