I love a big, juicy "five dollar" word. I daresay I'm even a fan of jargon, if sometimes just as an outdated cultural artifact (“tech disruption” anyone? bahaha). Being a word nerd was a little rough as a kid, but later I’d be criticized for coming off as condescending, which is harder to hear than just accusations of having my nose buried in a book at all times. So I have attempted in my dotage, to refrain from bellicose rhetoric for fear of being seen as a pedantic dilettante...
I kid, I kid. No one talks that way...as well as I do. OK BUT SERIOUSLY, friends. Over time, and after working as a translator for decades, I've learned that the best words need little explanation, and these days, with so few guiltless pleasures in the world for us to enjoy professionally, I live for the simpler phrases because they signify the most massive ideas.
Well, today, I have a new favorite phrase. A phrase I just learned a couple days ago from our board member and polymath Mary Yee.
Like "intersectionality" before it, this word sort of blows me away in its simple completeness. It's self-explanatory and revolutionary. Here's how the scholars at UPENN's Project for Mental Health and Optimal Development define it:
Sociologist Vaughn Tan promotes an "uncertainty mindset" as a way of injecting uncertainty into organizational design to spur innovation.
Injecting uncertainty into organizational design.
Wow. Purposely making uncertainty a part of your planning. There’s a lot more to this strategy of “expecting the unexpected,” and an Uncertainty Mindset feels more forgiving than being told to forget about “returning back to normal.” I want, and invite all of us, to embrace a “state of intentional inquiry underpinned by dialogue, climate and equity” (citation: “Planning for Uncertainty: An Educator’s Guide to Navigating the COVID-19 Era” PDF).
If I’m getting this right, Uncertainty used proactively requires we continue communicating with each other. So here’s me initiating an inquiry by sharing the uncertainties that inform our organizational development today:
- How do we support public works while participating in initiatives for systems change.
- Whether we address competing conflicts in order of urgency or order of relevance.
- What’s better for slow cooking: soy sauce or fish sauce?
How might we incorporate uncertainty in the fruitful planning of our future?