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Book synthesis

Six ways to innovate amid uncertainty (inspired by rocket science)

The fact that you don’t really know what’s going to happen in the coming months is enough to scare you into inaction – or spur you to action. Ozan Varol, a well-known aerospace specialist and rocker of boats, suggests you use a superpower: that of reimagining – and not just resisting – the status quo.

In 2004, two rovers landed on Mars without mishap, and Ozan Varol was part of the team that made that feat happen. He has since examined the mindset present among his colleagues: a subtle blend of creativity and rationality, of humility and crazy dreams. A cocktail that, it turns out, is perfect for the current situation. 

Based on
Le fait de ne pas vraiment savoir ce qu’il va se passer dans les mois à venir a de quoi vous tétaniser, vous immobiliser… Ou alors vous propulser. Ozan Varol, spécialiste en aérospatiale et perturbateur reconnu, propose de réfléchir à un super pouvoir : celui de réinventer - et pas seulement de résister - au statu quo.

Think Like a Rocket Scientist – Simple Strategies You Can Use to Make Giant Leaps in Work and Life by Ozan Varol (Penguin, 2020).

Dance in the dark and take an interest in the bizarre 

The twin notions of risk and uncertainty both refer to the possibility of events modifying an initial situation. But while risk is known and quantifiable, uncertainty is, by definition, unknown and immeasurable, which is why it causes more worry. You have doubtless already tried to battle against it, with “just in case” safety measures. They may be reassuring, but here’s the bad news: you risk killing the creativity of your employees and missing out on opportunities that uncertainty may hide.  

What if you sought inspiration among scientists whose very job is to explore darkness? The idea isn’t to move forward in a random way, but to map the chaos by transforming unknowns into unfamiliar knowns. In other words, things you know exist but whose nature is alien. And if you can resist the all-too-human inclination to ignore exceptions, you may even discover fascinating anomalies that could lead you down new paths. Did you know that it was by looking into a tiny irregularity he had spotted in Uranus’s orbit that 19th century mathematician Urbain Le Verrier “invented” Neptune and calculated its position almost exactly? This current period offers us a wonderful world of unknowns. Which planet will you discover?  

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Dominique Fidel
Published by Dominique Fidel
After completing her studies in civilizations and working 10 years in corporate communications, Dominique now divides her time between popularizing science, institutional communications, literary reviews, and Business Digest.