Don't play predictions, learn to embrace the unknown

Holly Maguire
CEO, Superunion UK

Predictions are a dangerous game.

Perhaps that's why we relied upon an octopus named Paul for the serious business of World Cup 2010 predictions – rumour has it Paul's Japanese successor Rubio was eaten during the 2018 World Cup despite his impressive 100% success rate. And the fate of the 2022 forecaster Taiyo the Otter is as yet unknown.

So rather than make predictions – or eating those that make them – perhaps we should try getting more comfortable with uncertainty. Indicative of this was the Department of Transport actively seeking a 'Head of Uncertainty' earlier this year.

The job might sound a daunting, if not unappealing one, however, the ability to cope with uncertainty is a quality that should feature in all job descriptions. So here is my handy cut out and keep guide to facing the unpredictable with confidence (or at least keeping your head).

Less limbic, more logic.

When faced with uncertainty our primal reaction of fear is triggered because our limbic brain takes control. So when we feel (naturally) anxious around uncertainty we need to give our primitive limbic brain a talking to, and seek out the facts that allow you to steady yourself.

We need to think more logically and let that limbic fear limbo away if we are to take control and steady the ship.

Know what you know (and what matters)

When much of 2023 is uncertain, we can convince ourselves that everything is uncertain. Compiling a list of the knowns as well as unknowns gives you a more balanced view. Assigning the unknowns a score based on their importance can help instil further confidence when overcoming them. Not all unknowns will be catastrophic and prioritising the issues with the highest impact score will help you focus on what really matters. Avoid entering a worry wormhole of 'what if' whilst doing this – this will waste energy on stuff that is likely to never even happen.

Strive for imperfection

If you're always seeking the 'perfect' decision or the 'perfect' outcome you will never succeed and will end up stressing about what you failed to nail. So don't dwell on what didn't happen and focus instead on what you were able to achieve and what you learned.

"No real progress happens without failure and if you do fall on your face at least you'll have moved forward a metre or so."

— Holly Maguire, CEO, Superunion UK

You are never right

No one is ever 100% right, even octopuses (Google 'plural of octopus' and you'll get 'octopuses', 'octopi' and 'octopodes' so I've only got a 33% chance of even getting that right).

Accept that any plan may be flawed, stay positive as you embark, but be humble enough to know when to call it as a wrong decision – or surround yourself with people who will tell you the truth as your plan unravels – and than have a planned contingency ready to go.

Recession, inflation, the cost-of-living, social inequalities – these are a few of the many words foreshadowing what we might expect in 2023. Undoubtedly, next year will be a tricky one to navigate. However, following the trials of the last few years we should feel confident in our ability to face this next one.

An unpredictable 2023 awaits us all and we'll need to ready ourselves for all it has to throw our way. Psychic invertebrates can do their best at guessing what's in store, though I for one will not be reliant upon anyone's predictions for next year, cold blooded or otherwise.

Instead, I'm bracing for the unexpected. Readying for change and developing strategies that are fleet of foot, with a positive mindset that greets the unpredictable with open arms.

First published in Creative Brief.


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