While a little bit of uncertainty – in the form of a pleasant surprise or something novel – is well received by most people, generally we feel more comfortable when we can be sure of what is going to happen next. 

The Science Behind This… 

When we find ourselves in a familiar situation our brain shifts into autopilot and conserves energy – it doesn’t have to ‘think’ about what we do next because it has already hardwired the response.

Uncertainty is not knowing what’s going to happen next. This requires a great deal more neural energy. If the brain detects ambiguity or confusion it immediately launches the threat response which takes oxygen and glucose away from our thinking brain, diminishing our memory, undermining our performance and disengaging us from the present so we can attend to the immediate threat and our survival.

What can I do to increase certainty and decrease uncertainty in others? 

1. Share plans, strategies and reasons for change

2. Give specific details about organisational restructures – dates, times, numbers. If details aren’t known, give people a date by which you will give them more information.

3. Explain how decisions are being made.

4. Break complex tasks into small steps.

5. Establish clear expectations in different situations.


Recommended Reading. Available at Amazon or iTunes through the links below.

Great by Choice – Jim Collins & Morten T. Hansen (iBook)