not-knowing-the-art-of turning-uncertainty-into-opportunitySteven D’Souza and Diana Renner’s intriguing written work tells us the enigma of uncertainty and how it leads to despair. In order to overcome their anxiety, people tend to rely on so-called experts who think they have all the answers to everything. 

Business leaders often employ consultants to help them craft the best possible decisions. But does getting expert help really lead to such outcomes?



For D’Souza and Renner, part of experiencing uncertainty is to recognize the advantages of “not knowing” and use them to uncover what needs to be known. It’s not as confusing as it sounds, but the authors provided a lot of insights to demonstrate exactly what they have in mind.

True power comes from the mind

Indeed, when you are running a business, knowledge has to be the most important resource to have. However, it’s still a double-edged sword that could hurt an organization if it is wielded badly.

For one, dependency on expert opinions leaves little room for genuine growth. Every organization has to develop in its own terms because it has to discover certain facts that can lead to unlocking other facts.

Steven D’Souza and Renner emphasizes the use of the Cynefin Framework which allows decision-makers to know things that are not familiar and cannot be easily explained by “gurus.” The framework describes uncertainty across four areas.


  1. Simple: What we already know from  memory
  2. Complicated: Things that experts have answers to.
  3. Complex: Phenomena we have no control over but we can easily observe and track.
  4.  Chaotic: Random events such as earthquakes or any other natural disaster.


The limit of our understanding

In the second part of the book, the authors explain the concept of Finisterre, which symbolizes the literal edge of the known and the unknown.

People, at some point in their lives, will have to go over the edge or take a leap of faith. Venturing out from their comfort zones and into unknown territory can take place drastically. This could be true of businesses that try to enter new markets or come up with.

When faced with uncertainty, however, most people would fall back to what they already know which gives them some measure of safety. This happens out of fear or denial of the realities that play out. Businesses will try to justify their retreat because they lack a clear vision of their ideal future which should have helped them do what is necessary to achieve it.

But being thrown into the unknown is only a part of the development process. Think of it as being in a dark room and you need some time before your eyes adjust to give you a better view of what’s inside. In the same vein, businesses should also allow themselves to adjust to drastic changes all while staying on track. Doing so helps them accept that sometimes all they need is time, not answers.


How “not knowing” leads to growth

The third part explains that not knowing is part of what is called: The Beginner’s Mind. This is when people – especially business leaders – have a preconceived idea of how the world works. It is basically a fresh take on reality that is not anchored on personal biases, ideas, and norms. In other words, it is a mind that sees the world through an objective lens.

After all, we all need to come up with decisions that are not based off of our own conceptions on reality. Experts may not have all the answers we need, but at least they can help us become better decision makers by being critical of our capacity to solve problems on our own.

In short, this encourages us to overcome the unknown and adopt a more rational way of explaining the world around us. 

Reading their book was an enlightening experience for me. Steven D’Souza and Dianna Renner did a great job explaining why people shouldn’t be afraid or feel inferior when they don’t have an answer to anything. It is all a matter of knowing how to cross over from Not Knowing to Knowing.

It might seem impossible to some, but shouldn’t growth involve the need to face challenges? We don’t have all the answers yet, but what is certain is that they are out there somewhere. All we have to do is to take a leap.

Want to get the book?

Read more blogs.

Tagged in
Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.