Most people – especially leaders – view uncertainty as a negative, something anxiety-inducing, stressful, even paralyzing. But what if uncertainty could be transformed to produce a wellspring of new ideas and fresh approaches, while turning fear into courage, paralysis into resilience, and converting change-resistant people into adaptive, risk-taking innovators?
This is not dream thinking. It is based on the actionable, research-backed framework developed and taught by renowned INSEAD Professor and corporate advisor Nathan Furr, a global authority on leadership, strategy, digital transformation, and disruptive innovation – and one of the world’s foremost experts on managing uncertainty.
Furr’s latest co-authored book, “The Upside of Uncertainty: A Guide to Finding Possibility in the Unknown” (Harvard Business Review Press, July 2022), is based on his “Uncertainty Capability” framework which he teaches to organizations during advisory meetings, executive education courses, interactive workshops and customized keynotes. He currently leads a new initiative, the Uncertainty Science Center, aimed at discovering the frameworks and tools for navigating the age of uncertainty.
“We all want possibility, growth and transformation, but all great achievement in our lives, or the world, come only after we face uncertainty,” explains Furr, who has helped major firms including Google, Microsoft, Johnson and Johnson, Kimberley Clark and Citi, among others. “My framework takes something as abstract as uncertainty and makes it concrete. It’s a holistic view of how uncertainty can be leveraged using tools that help bring down the temperature of the uncertainty we feel and raise the limit of what we think we can do so we have the courage and resilience to calmly step into new things and take action. I have witnessed firsthand how it can create powerful turnarounds in organizations and individuals.”
Dealing with uncertainty in some form has been a central theme in Furr’s ongoing research and the books he’s co-authored, including “The Innovator’s Method,” “Leading Transformation” and “Innovation Capital.” In “Leading Transformation,” Furr outlines the frameworks and tools he uses – such as strategic narratives, artifact trails and future KPIs – to help organizations embrace and invent an uncertain future. In “The Innovators Method,” he explains how companies can develop innovative leadership, low-cost experimentation processes and an agile culture in order to create new growth opportunities in an uncertain world. And “Innovation Capital” shows leaders how they can win support for new ideas by creating an environment that fuels experimental thinking. “The Upside of Uncertainty” builds on his previous work, offering 30+ practical tools for finding opportunity in uncertainty, and getting to the root of what holds a company or an individual back from achieving a desired outcome.
“In my research, I’ve interviewed innovators, founders, CEOs, and Nobel Prize winners to understand how they learned to navigate the unknown. I’ve also studied others who deal with the unknown, including paramedics, gamblers, surfers, and startup investors,” wrote Furr in his 2020 Harvard Business Review article, “You’re Not Powerless in the Face of Uncertainty,” just as the pandemic began upending the world. “What I’ve learned is that, although part of our capacity to deal with the unknown is innate, a larger portion is learned. Those who develop this ‘uncertainty capability’ are more creative, more successful, and better able to turn uncertainty into possibility.”
Nathan Furr is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers and Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®. Contact us to get started.
Advance Praise for “The Upside of Uncertainty”
“…a sophisticated yet accessible guide to turning uncertainty into a force for creativity, positive action and good.” — Developing Leaders
“’The Upside of Uncertainty’ is packed with insights into how we make life’s most important decisions. It will most certainly change the trajectory of your career. It may even change your life.” — Erin Meyer, professor, INSEAD; New York Times–bestselling coauthor, No Rules Rules
“Uncertainty is the very lifeblood of entrepreneurship. Great entrepreneurs not only cope with that uncertainty, they thrive in it. ‘The Upside of Uncertainty’ should be required reading for anyone getting ready to dive into the unpredictable world of entrepreneurship.” — David Hornik, founding partner, Lobby Capital
“’The Upside of Uncertainty’ beautifully demonstrates that uncertainty is the essence of life—an engine that drives us forward and that leads to opportunities. Nothing could be more important!” — Tina Seelig, Executive Director, Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program; Professor of the Practice, Department of Management Science and Engineering, Stanford University
“’The Upside of Uncertainty’ is a vigorously optimistic book!” — Piet Coelewij, Chairman, PMM Public Mediamarkt; Nonexecutive Director, Sonion; and guest lecturer, INSEAD
“The next generation of great leaders must learn to embrace uncertainty and leverage it for themselves and their organizations. ‘The Upside of Uncertainty’ shows them the way.” — Sam Yagan, Managing Director, Corazon Capital; cofounder, SparkNotes and OkCupid; and former CEO, Match.com
“Having worked with world leaders, it is clear to me that mastery in the face of uncertainty separates the good from the great. ‘The Upside of Uncertainty’ is required for all who aspire to make an impact in today’s world.” — Saj-nicole Joni, CEO, Cambridge International Group
“Uncertainty is here to stay. ‘The Upside of Uncertainty’ will help you learn to take advantage of it instead of fear it.” — Alex Osterwalder, cofounder, Strategyzer
In an age of uncertainty, executives and managers must learn to navigate the unknown, turning what seems like an insurmountable challenge into a profitable opportunity. Stern connects you with renowned thought leaders whose insights, strategies and management frameworks help organizations fuel growth and disruptive innovation to better compete in a constantly changing world. Let us arrange for these esteemed experts to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting sessions, workshops and keynotes.