If in the aftermath of 9/11 in 2001 and the GFC in 2008 you had watched the exponential rise of global competition and the onslaught of technological disruption, you would have to conclude that instability is chronic and that we can neither predict nor govern events.


The dominant pattern of history isn't stability, but instability and disruption. The relative stability of the last half of the last century is unlikely to be repeated in the 21st century and beyond.

How do some companies survive and thrive in times of uncertainty when others do not?


It depends more upon what you do than on what the world does to you. Successful companies reject the idea that forces outside their control will determine their results; they accept full responsibility for their own fate.


Here are three core behaviours that will help achieve outstanding results in an uncertain environment:

Fanatic self-discipline

This is the inner will to do whatever it takes to create a great outcome, no matter how difficult.
Discipline, in essence, is consistency of action – consistency with values, consistency with long-term goals, consistency with performance standards, consistency over time.

Empirical creativity

'Empirical' means relying on direct observation and engaging directly with evidence rather than relying on popular opinion, or untested ideas. This enables companies to make bold, creative moves and take calculated risks.

Productive paranoia

The fear of failure should be a guide but it should be latent. By considering myriads of possible threats, successful companies put themselves in a superior position to overcome danger. Even in times of calm, clear and positive conditions, they believe that events could, and will, turn against them at any moment and they had better be prepared.


If we are living in times of great uncertainty we are also living in times of great opportunity. Those who have the right tools and concepts, and the discipline to employ them, will get ahead.

Source: Great by Choice, Jim Collins & Morten T. Hansen, ISBN 978 0 06 212099-1