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Uncertainty is the only certainty

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The dynamics of life are changing. What comes tomorrow cannot be predictable. Almost every day, miraculous things are happening. Inventions and technology are disrupting the way we do things, the way we do business, the way we think and the way we interact. Tomorrow is not certain.

Yet in the bubbles of such disruptive uncertainty, an individual must always triumph and businesses must respond to the uncertain needs of the uncertain people in an uncertain environment. Leadership styles have been disrupted. The need for new books, new thinking and new strategies is highly called for. The corporate bodies of yesterday are archaic as of today. The new direction takes into account uncertain leadership styles that could never be comprehended decades ago.

The demands of the future are uncertain but still, to survive the elements, maintain a differential advantage and adapt to change. The bottom line is simple: be the agent of change rather than allowing change to happen to you as it could be destructive and would catch you off guard. The rule of survival is simple too: adapt or perish.

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Rene Carayol and David Firth in Corporate Voodoo point out that life is a mystery and so is business. They explain that “the old certainties do not apply”; we were told so often by the gurus of the 1990s. Then the dotcom economy emerged and gave a huge, shocking glimpse of a world where the old certainties were not just inapplicable but blown away. And then came the August 2000, the dotcom bubble seemed to burst.

The point is, as Carayol and Firth emphasise, we remain in a stressful, speeding world, breathless excitement and limitless possibility in one moment matched by breakdown, confusion and insecurity the next.

The big question is: how do we survive in such an uncertain environment? How do we create a competitive edge so that through the disruption of services, we remain relevant? The survival rests in what is termed as embracing the ‘initiates’ philosophy. Initiates are those that make their business fast. The future is determined by speed. We will have to do away with the ‘muggles’ mentality where the making of business is too slow. To claw ourselves out of the muggles into initiates, we require determining factors, namely fearlessness and positive attitude towards human beings.

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Carayol and Firth say “initiates have a healthy attitude to failure, seeing it as rich in learning and opportunity. Muggles, on the other hand, engineer their efforts to avoid failure or the impact of failure, and thus compress their life into what is known and predictable.”

Malawi and the world over have had companies that were once big but are now eyesores in the scrolls of history. It is all because they had the muggles mentality; they could not weave with speed in this uncertain environment. Talk of Malawi Development Corporation, Malawi Pharmacies Limited, Press Transport, Malawi International Transport Company (Mitco), Press Containers, PEW Limited, B & C, PGI, ERF Trucks and Buses, Soche Tours and Travel, Stagecoach, Air Malawi, Tobacco Processors Malawi Limited, Hardware and General Dealers, just to mention a few. They could not compete because they were in the comfort zone and were not anticipating uncertainties due to changing market forces. The markets went far ahead of them and by the time they realised, they were of no value to the very same markets. They failed to adapt to market forces.

Let us face reality. There is no assurance that our thinking today will be relevant tomorrow; that what we are cherishing today will be of value tomorrow. The world is moving at a supersonic speed as advanced economies are talking of nanotechnologies and that will raise the bar too high and question the survival of our businesses. The bottom line remains: we adapt or perish.

The good thing is that we have talents to curve the future of our choice; we are the architects of the life of our dreams. Actually, most of the uncertainties we encounter in life are as a result of the effects of the dreams of other people. Humans have the power to change the course of history through inventions, new technologies, new thinking, new strategies, new business models and new leadership styles. We can no longer afford to be static; the comfort zones will crumble any moment. Inability to move in the light of the changing forces in our environment is a recipe for disaster in the modern uncertain times. The only thing we can be assured of being certain is uncertainty.

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