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19 December 2022    |    Blog

Taking up arms (metaphorically) to challenge uncertainty

When it was suggested that we all need to adopt a warrior approach to complexity and uncertainty, I was well up for arming myself with claymore and shield

I’ve always quite fancied the idea of myself as a female version of Braveheart, so when, during Consultants for Good’s recent conference, it was suggested that we all need to adopt a warrior approach to complexity and uncertainty, I was well up for arming myself with claymore and shield…

Except, of course, that’s not exactly what guest speaker Toby Lowe of the Centre for Public Impact had in mind when he was encouraging us to be a bit more warrior. However, taking up metaphoric arms and being more prepared to fight the injustices of a volatile, uncertain and complex (VUCA) world was certainly one of the central themes of the day. 

It was widely agreed that the very real challenges presented by the extremes of the VUCA world can feel overwhelming and insurmountable, but our Port in a Storm conference did serve to offer both hope and practical steps we can take to mitigate the worst of the turbulence. Individually we, and our clients, might sometimes FEEL that there’s nothing we can do to prevent the world going to hell in a handcart, but all of our speakers were up for challenging stubborn mindsets, including our own.

Interestingly, one theme which emerged several times during the day was that old favourite – feel the fear and do it anyway. No-one denied the presence of fear – indeed it was reassuring to be reminded that it’s ABSOLUTELY NORMAL to feel uncertain or even to experience crushing anxiety when faced with so much bad sh*t. OF COURSE we’re worried, there’s a lot to be worried about. If it’s not the spiralling economy, war in Europe or the seemingly relentless destruction of our own planet, it’s the frankly dire straits so many people find themselves in as the cost of living goes stratospheric. 

So yes, feeling paralysed by fear is normal, but a persistent trope of the day was that doing nothing is just not an option. As most of our speakers suggested, each in their own unique way, how we manage our fears and step up to the plate is what really matters. 

Sarah Spencer of Think Like a Tree urged us to work with our charity and non-profit clients to mimic the natural world as a method for improving management structures and styles. 

Kate Sandle, Director of Sustainability at Newcore Capital championed change from multiple directions within organisations – bringing down the walls of silo working once and for all, and building trust between departments and people through openness and transparency. 

Toby Lowe (he of the warrior mindset) detailed the risks involved in avoiding risk. Toby presented a robust challenge to organisations which persist in programming certainty in response to uncertainty. His was a clarion call that risk is key to effective change. 

Laurie Laybourne, Visiting Professor at Chatham House and climate crisis activist with Cohort 2040, stressed that although the planet is teetering on the very brink, passivity is just not the solution. Laurie was clear, we can still make a difference but to do that  we need embrace “radical hope” – the kind of hope that involves battering down the door with an axe.

Now, where did I put that claymore? 

Mairi Damer, WORD UP Communications 

Photo by Benjamin Balázs on Unsplash