What is Going on Here?

In Radical Uncertainty: Decision-Making Beyond the Number (2020), John Kay and Mervyn King confront the challenge of “decision making under uncertainty.”

Finding inspiration in Richard Rumelt’s Good Strategy / Bad Strategy (2011) and the question “what is going on here?” coupled with Greg Treverton’s distinction between “puzzles and mysteries”, Horst Rittel’s and Melvin Webber’s distinction between “tame” and “wicked” problems, and Boeing engineers‘ description of “unknown unknown” (almost fifty years before Donald Rumsfeld‘s use of the term), Kay and King replace the distinction between risk and uncertainty with the distinction between resolvable and radical uncertainty and suggest the use of reference, dominant, and alternative narratives to answer the original question.

Modernity has at-best conflated risk & uncertainty and at-worst bifurcated & defined risk as separate from uncertainty to create the illusion of certainty where there is none. The egoism imbued by modernity often inclines people to diminish complex mysteries, reduce them into soluble puzzles, and completely replace them by puzzles.

Kay and King remind us that “to think about and cope with mysteries is the essence of managing life in the real world.”

Motivated by “life in the real world,” Alan Kamis and Si Alhir have embraced the banal sounding question, “What is going on here?”, as they work with the communities they serve (stakeholders, customers, clients, etc.) to leverage critical thinking & deliberate practice in confronting modern societal and business challenges.

Join Alan and Si as they explore various topics and challenges through the vernacular of the what-is-going-on-here question, the puzzles-&-mysteries distinction, and various narratives.


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