Constant change is the new normal.
Ricardo Nunez, based in Detroit, has been delivering exceptional programs with IOR for the past 12 years. Olga Collin is a Senior Advisor on IOR’s Intercultural Solutions team.
There is so much change in all aspects of our lives these days that it may feel overwhelming, even to those of us who are rather skilled in dealing with unpredictability. And exactly how skilled we are is often determined by the culture in which we grew up.
Uncertainty Avoidance Index: Do we try to control it as individuals and societies, or should we just let it happen?
- Germany, South Korea and Mexico score high on uncertainty avoidance and have less tolerance for unusual ideas and behaviors. There is a strong preference for planning and reliance on rules, regulations, and behavioral norms to reduce risks associated with change.
- The United States, China and Denmark score low on uncertainty avoidance and exhibit a more relaxed attitude to risk taking and the unknown. There is a strong preference for new ideas and concepts and less reliance on structure, written rules and long-term planning.
While we are shaped by culture, as individuals we are still unique and prone to feeling stressed and anxious, even coming from countries which embrace change and take risk. Consequently, we may also feel very comfortable with the uncertainty even though we grew up in cultures known for a more conservative approach to change. To be an effective global executive, it’s important to recognize your “go-to” mode when facing the unknown and working across various degrees of comfort with uncertainty.
Remember that your colleagues who score high on the Uncertainty Avoidance Index (from countries like Germany, South Korea and Mexico) would generally prefer:
- More structure and time for preparation
- Working with an expert who has all the answers
- Adherence to structure and timetables
- Interim steps to try out suggested solutions
- Less managerial risk-taking
- More time and factual reasoning before accepting new ideas
- Slower decision-making process
- Different often means dangerous
Remember that your colleagues who score low on the Uncertainty Avoidance Index (from countries like the US, China and Denmark) would generally prefer:
- Less structure and more “thinking outside the box”
- Open-ended discussion
- Working with self-directed individuals
- More managerial risk-taking
- Less of a focus on possible risks and ambiguities
- Quicker decision-making process
- Different often means exciting
Uncertainty and change often bring opportunities for creativity, innovation, and alternative solutions! Recognizing your own level of comfort with the unknown, being empathetic to each other’s needs and preferences contributes to managing change successfully.