Exploring The Unknown

Periodically I get email from the Human Systems Dynamics Institute. I haven’t been to one of their programs, but I find my attention is often sparked when I read their materials. Founder, Glenda Eoyang and I have have met at a few events — I think one of them was Authentic Leadership in Action a few years ago.

Today’s email from HSD included a quote from Brian Greene, a theoretical physicist — that is a really cool field, isn’t it. How can it not be, when so much attention is given to the very nature of what is real.

Exploring the unknown requires tolerating uncertainty.
– Brian Greene

This is a simple statement, yet packed with implications.

One, let’s face it, the unknown is a big and vast category. I always say, and it feels true, that there is more unknown that known. I’m not really trying to quantify it. But the disposition created, or mood, when naming the unknown as a category (and myth-busting the belief that all is known or knowable) just creates a whole lot more desire and willingness to explore together. It shifts a team from the stickiness of arguing its certainties to the openness of wondering its nuanced questions.

Two, and related of course, is that uncertainty is as common as the air we breath. Its not really an occasional thing. Which makes “tolerating” even seem funny. Air is essential. Coming in to relationship with uncertainty is also essential. I see the uncertainty in the everyday, even though there is part of me that wants to resist. “Tolerating” is a bit more like enduring until it goes away — like you would a bad movie. I think I’m on a mission with myself and with the groups that I work with to not just tolerate, but to embrace uncertainty.

No, I’m not taking issue with Brian Greene. Rather, am thanking him and people like Glenda who are evolving the edges into what I hope are becoming everyday practices and orientations that change who we are in teams, and who we are as a species.