Unpredictability

An unpredictable event is one that cannot be calculated in advance. It could be good or bad, but without knowing whether it will be good or bad, it is considered unpredictable. A once-in-a-lifetime event cannot be accurately predicted because it is unique to that one occurrence.

“You can’t improve something if you can’t measure it.”

– Peter Drucker

Drucker’s principle is especially pertinent in today’s world. The only true measure of good or bad is the outcome.

If you can’t predict the outcome, the only thing you can do is prepare for unexpected events, which is not easy to do.

In business or baseball, for example, if you have data on what your competitors are doing, you can anticipate the future and make plans for it. The risk of having information is that your competitors will know what you are thinking and will respond accordingly.

If we cannot measure something we cannot improve it; therefore, we should not improve what we cannot measure. Never take any risk if not able to read the room. However, in some cases, we innovate and improve based on our intuition, which is the result of making numerous observations and learning from them, but this is likely insufficient to predict the outcome of an event with reasonable accuracy. Humanity survived thousands of years because of our instinct.

To measure, we need something quantitative in value. That is how we improve. Because measurability is synonymous with predictability. To improve something, we must first understand what is good and what is bad. We can’t improve it if we don’t know what it is.

What are the threat matrices? Is there one? Why have we lost over a dozen customers in the last 24 hours? Is it a technical issue we can’t fix? Can we reverse an unpopular decision? Is it because our business model is unsustainable and we need to change?

These are critical questions to ask in order to measure and improve. The significance of asking probing questions cannot be overstated.

In practice, measuring things entails gathering data. When we have a problem, we gather data from various sources and search for patterns in the data. When the pattern is clear, we can analyse it to determine what caused the problem.

Chaos is a natural phenomenon that can be seen in many fields of science and business. Sometimes we see a situation unfold in a particular way and believe it is the result of our observations. But if we make another observation, the same thing will happen. This phenomenon can be observed by looking at an ant colony or a meteor shower, for example.

Chaos is a good thing. Ones can be unpredictable because of chaos. I shall set aside this part for another time.

The good part is that unpredictability can be weaponised and strategised to defeat the competition. While the other party is making plans, we could be dealing with the unexpected and unplanned. We can produce an impact equivalent to a large shock by first getting into motion.

“If something can go wrong, it will go wrong,” as the saying goes. This statement is typically used to scare others into not doing what they are suggesting.

To hell with Murphy – if anything can go wrong, well, fix It!