However, if you are confident in yourself, then feedback is a gift from which you can learn. And, if you are confident in yourself, then exposing yourself to new situations is a learning opportunity, not a threat. Here again, being confident in yourself leads to a useful outcome; but if you are simply confident that you are always right, the outcome if very different.
3: Groupthink = groupfail
Our need for certainty and our unquestioning faith in our group is a defence against the anxiety caused by not knowing. This fuels our tendency towards groupthink. If, in our community of like-minded people, one of our kind stands up confidently and promotes a certain course of action or point of view, we quickly find ourselves agreeing in unison, and committing to act together. Of course, these behaviours have many positive social benefits, social cohesion being one of them. But they do not protect us from being wrong, or prevent our planting the seeds of our own demise.
Confidence for success
In a VUCA world, how can we harness the benefits of building confidence in ourselves, and avoid the pitfalls of always believing we are right?
To build your confidence in yourself, consider three strategies. First, be curious about other people, cultures, disciplines and points of view opposed to yours. This is not to say you have to like them, or agree with them: just be curious about them all. Second, from time to time, put yourself in new situations. Learn new languages, take up a new instrument, start playing chess, take up extreme ironing – anything, as long as it is something new. And third, listen. Listen to your inner self, your emotions and your fears. The person who cannot face their fears is lacking confidence.
So how can you work in the VUCA world without losing your confidence in yourself, or falling into the trap of believing you are right? Reject the traditional expert approach to the new. Instead, adopt the adaptive approach.
In simple terms, the expert approach is to:
- Prepare and plan for what to do next;
- Train oneself and others to perform their roles in the plan effectively; and
- Monitor alignment or deviance from the plan and retrain if necessary.
The adaptive approach to the new is to:
- Experiment based on a hypothesis;
- Observe and collect feedback on what happens; and
- Reflect on what is learnt
We must all distinguish between confidence as belief in ourselves, and confidence as belief that we are right. In the VUCA world, the latter is dangerous. The former is essential.