Hollow Certainty

As humans we are programmed through the ages to move towards certainty. Our brains are hardwired to constantly make sense of the world we live in. It does not like uncertainty. It needs to predict what will happen next in order to be prepared enough to survive.

We live in a society that creates certainty for the same reason. There are traffic laws so that we can predict what the other driver is supposed to do. We have social norms in relationships in order for us to feel save in such a relationships.

What really puts my mind in a spin is the fact that everything changes. Change is the only constant we can be sure of. How come we spend so much mental energy to create mind maps that gives us this hollow certainty?

Take the weather for example. There are some times, when you can predict weather well for the next 15 days. Other times, you can’t predict the next two hours.

“The business climate, it turns out, is a lot like the weather. And we’ve entered a next-two-hours era. The pace of change in our economy and our culture is accelerating — fueled by global adoption of social, mobile, and other new technologies–and our visibility about the future is declining.

Any business that ignores these transformations does so at its own peril. Despite recession, currency crises, and tremors of financial instability, the pace of disruption is roaring ahead. The frictionless spread of information and the expansion of personal, corporate, and global networks have plenty of room to run. And here’s the conundrum: When businesspeople search for the right forecast–the road map and model that will define the next era–no credible long-term picture emerges. There is one certainty, however. The next decade or two will be defined more by fluidity than by any new, settled paradigm; if there is a pattern to all this, it is that there is no pattern. The most valuable insight is that we are, in a critical sense, in a time of chaos[1].”

We try to create certainty of this chaos by labeling them with theories like the Chaos Theory or the Evolution Theory. This really helps me a lot. I like it when I can put a name to something. At the same time, it does nothing for the experience of chaos that is constantly there. Of course we can deny it and belief in preconditioned reality, but is this authentic (and save) enough to live in?

I understand that I am part of this chaotic system. My challenge is to engage with this chaos, taste it, feel it (not my fear) and excel in it.

But I must be honest – I still hold on to the edge with one hand.

With a spinning head.

H

SCARF: A shelter for the brain

Successful engagements with your clients or employees is closely linked to knowing how to satisfy their social needs.  Social needs are perceived by the brain as important as basic needs like food or shelter.  When these social needs are not met, we feel threatened.  On the other hand we experience a sense of reward when our social needs are met.  A reward emotion will draw a person in and ensure engagement, where a feeling of being threatened causes one to avoid a situation or person.

When your employee experiences a reward emotion, they will be more creative and show increased problem-solving skills.  It also stimulates deep thinking and positive emotions. This employee will be more willing to stretch herself beyond what she would normally be willing to take on.  Unfortunately, a sense of being threatened seems to be the default response in teams.  In a team setting it is therefore even more important to ensure reward emotions.

The SCARF model is used in Life, Business and Team Coaching to diminish a threat response and optimize positive reward emotions.  This acronym stands for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness.

Status relates to our relative importance, where we feel extremely threatened when we feel less important than someone else or being left out. We even feel better when we feel that we are becoming better than we were previously.  Learning and developing satisfy this need.

Our brain has a constant need to predict the immediate future.  Uncertainty decreases one’s ability to focus.  Giving your client enough information creates certainty and therefore willingness to engage with you. Make sure your clients and employees has the answer to the question “What is going to happen next?”

Autonomy is about having choices and a sense of control. We often hear about people leaving the corporate environment in search of a life where they have increased control over their life.  Creating an environment where employees feel that they have choices will contribute to an engaged workforce.

Are you my friend or my enemy?  This is the need for relatedness; knowing whether another person is “someone like me”.  Research has shown that people place the most trust in information they get from someone they feel connected to.  This increases trust.  Information received from such a person is processed by the brain using the same circuits as the ones processing one’s own thoughts.  Therefore you want to foster a sense of connectedness among colleagues.  You also want your client to feel that you share similarities.  Allowing people to share information about themselves contributes to a feeling of connectedness, especially if similarities are found. Mentoring, buddy systems and working in small groups also contributes to relatedness.

The perception of fairness or lack thereof elicits very strong emotions and reactions.  Consistency helps to increase a sense of fairness.  Perceived unfairness can be due to a lack of knowledge and transparency can help to correct these perceptions.  Establishing clear expectations from your clients and employees and making sure these are met will also contribute to engagement and positive emotions.

Satisfying the social needs of your employees and clients has a significant impact on them. When you find ways to increase their sense of importance, certainty, having choices, feeling connected and being treated fairly; the effect will be extremely satisfying both ways.