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Exercises for Reducing Uncertainty

Explore different Design Thinking techniques and exercises useful for reducing uncertainty.

This chapter is from the book

What You’ll Learn in This Hour:

  • arrow.jpg Next-Step Thinking for Uncertain Situations

  • arrow.jpg Reducing Uncertainty and Ambiguity

  • arrow.jpg Working Through Uncertainty and What’s Next

  • arrow.jpg What Not to Do: The Brute-Force Path

  • arrow.jpg Summary and Case Study

In this hour, we explore a special subset of Design Thinking techniques and exercises useful for reducing uncertainty. After working through Next-Step Thinking and establishing the differences between ambiguity and uncertainty, we learn four ways to move forward with greater certainty than otherwise possible. Then we explore seven techniques or exercises for determining the “next best step” when the path ahead is unclear. Hour 13 concludes with a “What Not to Do” focused on avoiding brute force in the face of ambiguity.

Next-Step Thinking for Uncertain Situations

Like fog, ambiguity hides the path in front of us. When there’s really no way to illuminate the whole path, use the exercises in this hour to at least light up the portion of the path just ahead of us. Called Next-Step Thinking, this technique is essentially an “umbrella technique” for a whole collection of tips and exercises that have been used for years to make progress one step at a time.

That’s really the goal: to move with intention through the journey, from one step to the next, acknowledging that not every step will be perfect, but every step will add learnings and therefore value. And with our roadmap of short-term, mid-term, and long-term horizons laid out, we can use other techniques covered this hour, such as Buy a Feature and MVP Thinking to build some consensus and make some strong initial progress. But then what? How do we get to that mid-term or next horizon?

To be clear, we probably need to first “control the controllable.” And then we need to turn to Next-Step Thinking to think through how to make the jumps between our short-term, mid-term, and long-term horizons. Start with the thought that in between the various horizons or phases of our projects and initiatives lies the opportunity to think through how to

  • arrow.jpg Preserve and reuse what we (now) know

  • arrow.jpg Leverage our experiences and what we have accomplished

  • arrow.jpg Lean on the relationships we have built over time

  • arrow.jpg Acknowledge and fill in our gaps

  • arrow.jpg Recognize patterns and opportunities to help others

  • arrow.jpg Bring the whole of ourselves to a new problem or situation

Next-Step Thinking helps us conceptualize the broader situation, our team’s skills, and what’s probably needed as a stepping-stone to achieving what’s next. Think about what our teams have done, and where, with whom, and how successfully, along with our track record of delivery.

In a more personal context, Next-Step Thinking is also an important part of capitalizing on who we are today, the investments we’ve made in ourselves, and the ability we have to provide value beyond today.

  • arrow.jpg Can we earn a promotion in-role by using today’s success as an exemplar for why a promotion is merited?

  • arrow.jpg Can we extend our current success by growing the community we serve?

  • arrow.jpg Can we work with others to explore and tackle Adjacent Spaces (discussed later this hour) or seek out new ways of creating value?

  • arrow.jpg Can we grow our skills and reduce our gaps to take our manager’s role? Or another leadership role?

  • arrow.jpg Should we take everything we’ve learned and accomplished to another organization that needs the kind of help we provide?

Consider the following principles for Next-Step Thinking:

  • arrow.jpg Become an expert at delivering value with what we have on hand; find success with what we have, who we have, and where we have it.

  • arrow.jpg The Important is more critical than the Urgent; ensure that the Important is delivered, even as a fast-follower to the Urgent.

  • arrow.jpg Meet people’s needs where they are, and then figure out their next set of needs.

  • arrow.jpg Before moving to the next step or next challenge, take the actions necessary to ensure that solved problems don’t devolve back into the old problems.

Most every exercise this hour represents a form of Next-Step Thinking. Let’s start with four exercises that can help us take a smart step forward by minimizing the uncertainty, ambiguity, and risks that lay just ahead.

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