While teaching my psychology class yesterday, we got into a conversation about the problem of truth. Namely: just because you think you know something and our entire society thinks it knows something, doesn’t make it true. (Remember that whole flat earth theory?) Back when information wasn’t dangling all around us, this wasn’t nearly as obvious, but these days it’s hard to miss that different people seem to “know” some pretty contradictory things.
At this point one of my students sighed an exasperated sigh and said: “I’m pregnant, and all this uncertainty is driving me crazy. One doctor tells me I should be drinking a lot of water. Another one tells me I should be drinking less water. How do we cope with the uncertainty?”
Of course I adore this question. It’s what our company is obsessed with figuring out. But instead of answering, I turned her question back to the rest of the class: “What do you all think?” Here are some of my favorite answers:
1. Acknowledge It: The first thing you have to do is admit that there’s probably no single answer and way too much information to digest. Face the fact that there are no hard facts – just a lot of data.
2. Decide How You’ll Decide: If you try to Google everything there is about how much water you should drink, you’ll still be Googling by the time you’re in the delivery room. Set a deciding strategy like: “I’m going to read four articles from seemingly reliable sources, speak to two doctors, call four friends, and then make a decision by this Friday. If important new evidence comes up, I can always change what I’m doing.”
3. Experiment and Iterate: Try drinking eight glasses of water for a week and pay close attention to how you feel. Next, drink just one glass of water a day and track how you feel. Follow the evidence and make small, incremental changes often.
Here’s what I love about these approaches: any individual or organization exploring this world without a map can use this advice (whether you are a pregnant woman, a scientist, an artist, or an innovative company).
Have a different suggestion? I’d love to hear how you handle uncertainty.