The world is changing at a fast pace. How can you brace yourself for uncertainty? The bad news of our time is that there is an alarming increase in the number of things we know nothing about. The recent outbreak of COVID-19 and its disastrous effects on global society, being a good example. We live in a time of autocatalytic change; each change accelerates the rate of the next. So, staying on top does not only require you to change fast, it also requires you to accelerate the pace of your own change. Success depends on a function of velocity and acceleration of change or adaptability.

What is fast change?

Let’s share an interesting anecdote. What is special about the word ‘selfie’? It is the first word in the history of mankind that is the same in every language. No other word – war, peace, love, God, etc. – exists in every language. The reason for this is that the speed of information nowadays is so fast that different cultures did not have the time to make up their own word for ‘selfie’. Speed is all that matters. 

If the rate of change outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near. So, you need to have some idea about what is happening around us. We have found that developments in technology and society bring about most change drivers. I will touch upon some important ones in my next blog.

adapting to change

Adapting to change and trends

External awareness often starts with a proper analysis of trends. Yet it is not the trends that are important. What is important is your adaptability to change based on these drivers. Charles Darwin couldn’t have said it better: To adapt and survive, you must become aware of three domains of uncertainty:

  1. The things you know that you know 
  2. The things you know that you don’t know
  3. The things you don’t know that you don’t know (yet)

Do you turn a blind eye?

In her book Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at our Peril, Margaret Heffernan examines the phenomenon of willful blindness, the cognitive mechanisms by which we choose – sometimes consciously, mostly not – to turn a blind eye. “We could know, and should know, but don’t know because it makes us feel better not to know”. What are the reasons that individuals and groups are blind to impending personal tragedies, corporate collapses, engineering failures or even crimes against humanity? Why, after every major accident, disaster and blunder, do we look back and ask how we could have been so blind? Why do some people see what others don’t? And how can we change? We turn, willfully, a blind eye in order to feel safe, to avoid conflict, to reduce anxiety and to protect prestige. But, as we will debate further on, greater understanding leads to better solutions. Heffernan shows how – by challenging our biases, encouraging debate, discouraging conformity and not backing away from difficult or complicated problems – we can be more mindful of what’s going on around us and be proactive instead of reactive.

Easier said than done. During the Corona crises of the last couple of months a 2015 video recirculated on the social channels featuring Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, warning us about global catastrophe. “If anything kills over 10 million people in the next two decades, it is most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war. Not missiles but micros.” And why is that. Because we have been investing in nuclear deterrents instead of worrying about systems that might stop an epidemic. The enemy that you cannot see and the cure that is simply not there (yet). The things you don’t know that you don’t know. Should we just have listened to Gates in 2015? We might have been better prepared with his suggestions for health care improvements and more resilient to such a virus breakout.

Do you know what you don’t know?

So, start asking yourself the questions nobody else around you seem to be asking. Observe and explore the third domain of uncertainty and start the debate. Here are some rarely asked questions to get you going:

  • How can technology help you do things today that you have never been able to do before? 
  • What is happening in the extremes of your business model or in adjacent markets which might disrupt you? 
  • Do you have a clear picture of your (future) competitors; especially the ones you do not see? 
  • Do you have a clue who your next disruptor will be?

Did you come up with some surprising answers? Or lost for some? I would love to hear from you! Drop a line at

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