One of my connections kindly pointed me to a Harvard Business Review article called 4 Steps to Creating a Strategy in an Uncertain World. I struggled with the simple idea of even sharing the link to it, but here it is. Every time I read something from HBR, I cringe, and as such, I rarely see the point of discussing their content.

But this article is so symptomatic in wrapping up all the nonsense about "dealing with risk" under a thin varnish of being reasonable about it and building a proper innovation strategy that I couldn't really pass on it.

Here goes...

It hardly needs to be said, but we live in uncertain times. The Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the reshuffling of supply chains and capital structures β€” the past few years have seen unprecedented disruptions, and the turmoil shows little sign of letting up any time soon. Challenges abound, and companies are finding it nearly impossible to plan for the future. Such a volatile environment requires a new approach to devising strategy.

Nothing new, although obviously, some unprecedented types of systemic risks have appeared. From the Luddites to the electrification of the industry, two world wars, the HIV pandemic, the explosion of the internet, and a financial bubble, I'd be hard-pressed to declare the last century a smooth environment with stable markets. Β 

But is it even worth trying to predict the unpredictable? Sure, uncertainty means risk, but it can also spell opportunity. Handled correctly, it gives organizations the chance to expand beyond the boundaries of their current business, potentially in unexpected directions.

Wait, risk and uncertainty? These are the same words.

ISO 31000:2018 / Risk is defined as the "effect of uncertainty on objectives." In other words, risk is the potential for an unexpected event or situation to occur that can have a negative or positive impact on achieving a desired outcome.
When devising strategy, taking a strict customer view is critical. What is it that your clients really want? Rather than drawing up endless customer profiles, companies should consider what individuals want to achieve in a specific circumstance (...)

Very few high uncertainty zones involved customers being capable of formulating what they'd want, even less asking for it. Passed a certain threshold of potential transformation to the status quo, risk aversion will kick in, and customers will actively fight your innovation (at least for a while). Asking customers what they want as a get-go way to deal with high uncertainties is, at best, marginally educative and, most of the time, an oxymoron.