Sometimes we know we need to act but we are scared because the outcome is unknown.
In my world, the finance world, we don’t much use the word scary. We typically use the word risk. Essentially, saying something is risky is saying that something is scary. Both words apply when you are facing into the unknown.
In my estimation if you know you should act, but the path or the precise outcome is unclear, then there are three options available. I call them the three Cs.
The first C. If something is unknown you may be able to make it known before you act. Not sure it’s worth putting solar on your roof because you don’t know what the cost is? Get a quote and now you know.
If only we could get certainty on everything before we had to act! Often we can’t, so the next best thing is….
Often we can’t get certainty because we live in a complex world with lots of variables. We are also usually planning over time and time makes those variables dynamic. So, if we can’t get certainty we aim for confidence.
We can ask: “Has this been done before?”, “If so, what happened?”, “What assumptions can I reasonably make?”, “How would a reasonable person behave?”. Answering questions like these gives us some confidence around the outcome.
In the finance world we build financial models that are really just our best attempt at answering these types of questions with numbers. And so, we give ourselves confidence in a best guesstimate of an uncertain future.
Sometimes we can’t get certainty. Sometimes we can’t get even get a high degree of confidence. We might be able to get a little of one or the other, but there is still a gap which remains unknown. And remember that unknown equals scary. Often this happens when we want to act but we need to do something new, untested, untried or unproven.
For the certainty/confidence gap these things present there is only one C left…….
If we want to do something different, something new or something “innovative” there is always going to be an element of courage needed.
The world is a complex place. There are many issues that need new ideas and approaches to solve. Throwing more money at something isn’t always the answer. Doing the same thing that hasn’t worked until now definitely isn’t the answer. When I think about some of the huge challenges we face as a community, society and as a planet we will need new solutions. We will need new ideas, approaches and tools. We will also need the courage to do something with these new things.
I think about World Vision kicking off the 40 hour famine. Or the Benevolent Society decision to establish the Royal Hospital for Women. In the impact investing space I think of the Federal Government providing money via the Social Enterprise Development Investment Fundto Foresters, SVAand SEFA. The first investors in our Giant Leap Fund. The staff and board of Uniting Care Burnside deciding to launch the first Social Impact Bond in Australia.
None of those decisions could be made with certainty or complete confidence. They all required courage. Courage from organisations, individuals, governments and investors, that allowed them to step through the unknown and achieve great things.
You might argue that some of the results are mixed, some of the outcomes have missed, or the impact has not always been achieved. That’s the thing with uncertainty, it’s uncertain. No doubt some things don’t work. We will have to get through the things that don’t work so we can find the things that do work. Sometimes we stumble across the magic unicorn in the forest. Mostly we find them after delivering 3,684 plain old brown horses until a unicorn arrives. Sorry, there ain’t no other way.
Waiting for perfect is a terrible benchmark to set yourself. You will not act. It is akin to using Romeo and Juliet’s romance as your benchmark for entering a relationship. You will die alone. So don’t wait for perfect.
Sure, get as much certainty as you can. And absolutely, do the work you need to do to gain confidence. Nowhere have I suggested “Cavalier” as one of my C’s. But recognise if you are doing something new there will always be a gap. That gap requires courage to jump.