The Problem with Predictability


As a business leader, I love predictability. Arguably all of my daily efforts go into capturing it. I want predictability in our sales process. In our financial forecast. In our production throughput and quality measures. I want predictability in my morning coffee.

But the problem with predictability is that we chase it instead of creating it.

And that matters because when we chase predictability, it runs away, just like my 3-year-old when it’s time to leave the park. 

Uncertainty always comes first

We forget that before something became predictable, it first wasn’t. It was uncertain. When predictability becomes our filter, we make decisions based on how confident we are in the end result. 

So how does this apply to business? 

No Uncertainty means No Change and No Growth

“The comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”

Unknown

This is true for you. It’s true for your company too.

The CEO at my company often reminds me “there can be no growth without change.”

Change begins with uncertain outcomes. No uncertainty, no innovation. No innovation, no growth. Chasing predictability smothers growth. Embracing uncertainty creates it. 

I experienced this recently with a member of my team. Let’s call him Dan. He was offered an opportunity to take on a newly created role in another part of our business, addressing one of our major needs. Having maximized his current position, he’d become accustomed to a set of predictable routines and outcomes. 

Predictable outcomes or uncertain challenges. Which path did Dan choose? 

How to Create Predictability 

Poker player Annie Duke explains in Thinking in Bets, “Improving decision quality is about increasing our chances of good outcomes, not guaranteeing them.” 

We can create predictability by recognizing that just because something doesn’t have a clear outcome doesn’t make it wrong.

The evaluation question isn’t “how will this turn out?”… it’s “can I influence how this is will turn out?” 

When we shift our mindset to prioritize learning over planning,  growth, innovation, continuous improvement become nothing more than miniature experiments generating uncertain outcomes. We then get to stack these experiments together to create predictable results. 

Applying for the promotion, speaking up with an idea, tweaking your routing system or your sales process. When you use uncertainty as the raw material to create predictability, the 3 yr old finds you instead.

Back to Dan

He chose the role where he would be less comfortable. Where he could use uncertainty to grow professionally. Where he could use uncertainty to create predictability again. 

We’ve all been in Dan’s shoes at one point or another and will be again. Uncertainty always finds us. Is there a path we should choose? I don’t know. How much do you like chasing 3 yr olds?

Published by brianhquinn

I believe we are all capable of incredible things. If you're going to doubt anything, don't your limitations. So that’s what this blog is all about. How do we shed those limitations to chart career paths based on our interests and talents rather than lines on a resume? Join me and find out.

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