The Need for Certainty and Control over the Future in Decision Making

Decision Making in the Past and Decision Making in the 21st Century

Decision-making is a process that involves responding to short term and immediate term events and incidents as well as strategizing for the longer term with plans that are more sustainable and durable. This mix of reactive decision making in response to changing threats and proactive decision making that is geared towards the longer term is what makes the lives of business leaders that much more challenging.

Whether one is responding to the immediate events or one is strategizing for the future, the bottom line is that one is trying to get a grip on the external forces that impact the organization and hence, one is trying to find certainty in an increasingly uncertain world. The last phrase is important as unlike earlier eras, where decision makers could confidently predict and plan for the longer term, secure in the knowledge that the future is under control, decision makers in the 21st century have to live with extremely short duration plans, where the rapid pace of change and the sheer complexity of the business landscape means that they are subject to the pulls and pressures of the present which leaves them with no energy for the future. Even when they have a reasonable grip over the present, they are not sure what would happen when and where in the future which would leave them vulnerable to sudden shocks and Black Swan Events that are high impact, low probability occurrences.

Need for Certainty and Control over the Future

The point that is being made here is that the need for certainty and control over the future determine the actions of the decision makers in the 21st century. This need for speed and the desire to stand triumphant over the longer term manifest themselves in the ways decision makers confront the business landscape. In order to actualize these objectives, decision makers turn to a variety of tools and techniques that help them plan for the future. This has led to an exponential increase in the demand for the services of futurists and market experts who publish dedicated newsletters and advisories to help the decision makers. In some cases, these experts consult exclusively and extensively with companies where the demand for their services arises from the fact that the business leaders want more control over their future. Indeed, the business of consulting has seen a dramatic surge as more and more companies try to understand the forces shaping the future and want the experts to guide them on strategies to harness them for their purposes.

Some Questions that Decision Makers Confront

The usual questions that arise in the quest to control the future and the need for certainty are:

  • Will the global economy emerge from the recession and sustain growth?

  • What will be the forces shaping consumer behavior over the next 10 years?

  • What would be the impact of technology and the emergence of Web 2.0 and Mobile Computing on business and consumers?

  • How will changing demographics (like the retirement of the baby boomers and the ageing of the West sometimes referred to as “Shock of Gray”) impact the markets and demand for their goods and services?

  • Will new wars and conflicts break out over resources like oil and minerals?

  • What would be the impact of climate change on business and society?

Closing Thoughts

This list of question is a representative sample of the usual queries that futurists and consultants get from worried company executives. Though we have not answered any of these questions here or attempted to understand the key issues, the reason why they have been listed is to introduce readers to the uncertainties that businesses face and point to research that decision makers can do to control the future. Finally, we shall be exploring some of these questions as a follow-up and try and understand the forces that are lashing at the shores of the business world and society.


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