Elias Howe, the inventor of the sewing machine lived with doubt and uncertainty – the women of his day even laughed him out the room – however, he persisted through the uncertainty and it is this kind of resilience and belief we need in 2020.

Howe almost died a pauper, but he persisted and would eventually go on to reap great wealth from an invention that would revolutionise the garment industry.

History is littered with stories of people struggling with doubt and uncertainty and failure after failure. People who would not only go on to achieve extraordinary rewards, but who would also change the world.

The fact is, the sadness and tragedy of this pandemic aside, we should otherwise embrace the uncertainty that the pandemic has brought upon us because it has changed the script.

Anybody can do it

The world at the start of 2020 is not the same one we are living in today, and that can be a good thing – and it doesn’t take a certain, ‘entrepreneurial’ personality to succeed either.

As Todd Saxton, Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, writes: “Research has for decades demonstrated that innovators and entrepreneurs are no more risk-taking than the average person”.

In other words, those that innovate and look to create new opportunities out of uncertainty are no more risk averse than the average person. It’s simply that they’re more comfortable making decisions in the face of the unknown.

The biggest dis-service you could do yourself or your business in 2020 is to be paralysed by indecision. Now is not the time ‘to wait it out’ or ‘hunker down until this all blows over’ because when you emerge from your bunker you will find that the world has changed, and you’ve missed the bus.

“Anyone can cultivate the abilities to navigate uncertainty and create positive change. Innovators are not a breed apart,” says Saxton.

Annie Duke, who won over $4 million playing professional poker, offers the following advice: “We think right now the environment related to uncertainty is really drastically different than it was prior to the pandemic, and while it turned it up to an 11 now, it’s not that drastically different”.

Her advice?

  1. Don’t be afraid of guessing.
  2. Make small bets; that is small decisions we can test and measure without any great big loss.
  3. Use your intuition more.

Referencing the pandemic, physician and science communicator Mikhail Varshavski sums it up: “We have to be okay with the unknown. Perhaps science doesn’t have a clear answer and we have to take it day by day and take evidence as it comes”.

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