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Sometimes the unknown just feels right

Why you shouldn’t be scared of facing the unknown when you have a confident, prepared and agile team.

An opportunity comes along in business and you’ve never done anything like it before. It’s the big unknown. You can’t see where it is going but gradually, through constant small decisions, success! How did that happen? How did you know to go for it?

Success is about learning to love not knowing

I’ve just had exactly that experience. We’ve been working on developing a relationship with an international partner. Not something I’ve done before — scary and exciting. We started as complete strangers and now we highly respect each other. So why did I go for it? What made me love the idea of this particular unknown?
My decision to work with them was tipped by a remark from their CEO. At the end of our first meeting he said: “from everything I have heard so far, I know that I want to work with you. I don’t know what that’s going to look like, but I know I want to work with you!”

Just go for it

This was a wow moment for me, and a huge relief. I’d been scratching my head trying to come up with the conditions that would enable us to work together, and here was this seasoned CEO, just saying: ‘lets go for it’. Embrace not knowing.

The thing is, to work this way requires a team adapted to working in more of a spatial make-up than a linear one. It can’t really be a process-driven team, because the processes haven’t been invented yet.

Rely on your values to see in the dark

And as this way of moving forward into the unknown is so fluid, I need a strong set of values to guide my choices and those of my team, because we are going to be faced with decisions that need to be made after the facts.

For example, our partner pushed a client our way, and we won a large piece of business we never thought we’d pull off. So what is the profit share? My response was: “what’s fair?”. If our partner has the same values as us — which is what pushed us to work together in the first place — then that should be an easy questions to answer. And it was. The negotiation was three text messages.

It made me realise that, in the current world, my most important asset is a confident, prepared and agile team. A team that loves the unknown and turns that into serendipity; ready to seize opportunities as they fly by and let them go if they aren’t right. I need them to be OK with processes being a bit wobbly because we are inventing the rules as we go along.

And what made me confident that would happen? Knowing our values and knowing that we will respect people and treat them properly. Trusting my team to make the right decisions. Will the money follow? Of course. In my world, profit should simply be the indicator of running a successful sustainable business — and you can’t have that if you don’t love the don’t know.

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