Clinging to certainty can block progress, Morela Hernandez writes in MIT Sloan Management Review

October 26, 2021

Morela Hernandez

Morela Hernandez

Center for Positive Organizations (CPO) Faculty Associate Morela Hernandez urges us to get comfortable being uncomfortable in her column “The Problem With Certainty” for MIT Sloan Management Review.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to make so many adjustments at work and at home that we have little emotional energy or cognitive capacity to see other people’s perspectives, Hernandez writes. We just want to be certain of something in our lives.

“Being certain about the rightness or wrongness of others’ decisions leaves little room for us to grow or expand our understanding, not just of other people but of their situations and their circumstances,” Hernandez writes. “Our inability to control a knee-jerk reaction that shuts down ambivalence borne from disagreement or uncertainty limits our ability to make progress, personally and professionally.”

Instead, she offers three steps to help us be more open to differing viewpoints:

  • Embrace the tension that comes from the full range of options.
  • Don’t run from stress.
  • Address the damage.

“By seeking out different challenges, greater nuance and care in how we characterize points of view that are different from our own, we expand our capacity to withstand the cognitive discomfort that comes from ambivalence,” Hernandez writes. “We become stronger and more flexible as both individuals and organizations.”

Hernandez is a Collegiate Chaired Professor at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and Stephen M. Ross School of Business.

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