The coordinates of Tom Graves for navigating in uncertainty

The pandemic kicked off a time in history of great uncertainty. It has disrupted our businesses, our communities, our families, and life itself. What can we learn from all of this to make our lives and communities stronger, more resilient, more aware? How do we deal with the fear of change, of loss, of failure?


These were the topics we addressed together with Tom Graves, business enterprise designer, as part of a webinar by People Revolution, an initiative led by Peoplerise in collaboration with a network of national and international partners.


The contribution of Tom Graves: coordinates for orienting in uncertainty


In moments of disruption, we experience a transition from status quo A to status quo B, what we might call the new normal. During these moments, everything seems uncertain but, once arrived in the safe land of our new way of being, we will see how we have become stronger, and more resilient, in the uncertainty. 


Using precise coordinates to navigate through uncertainty allows us to focus well on principles, values and boundaries through which we can reduce complexity to something that we are able to manage.

Living in moments of uncertainty and breakdown: before during and after

The moment in which we are currently standing falls somewhere between a before and an after. On the one hand, we are still experiencing a phase of uncertainty related to COVID-19 but, at the same time, we are beginning to focus on the early discoveries and learnings that occurred during the months of lockdown.

Tom invites us to look at what has happened in these months in our families and businesses through these 3 coordinates:


1. Before | Preparing for the breakdown

How can we create the conditions so that uncertainty does not catch us unprepared? These, according to Tom, are the key aspects on which to act:

  1. Create widespread awareness of what may be possible sources of disruptions in economic and social systems
  2. Train people with the appropriate skills to work in complex and uncertain contexts
  3. Look at the opportunities hidden in the risks. What would happen if we started to include items in our business plans that talk about maximizing opportunities, instead of minimizing risks?

2. During | Acting in the moment of breakdown

When the moment of disruption occurs, it is important not to stand still, but to act and seize the opportunities for transformation inherent in uncertainty, while remaining anchored in one’s values and principles. When we are in a period of uncertainty, it is therefore important:

  1. Remember what is essential for the organization. Values, vision, and mission are the anchors in an environment of constant change.
  2. Manage priorities, using techniques such as checklists and triage.
  3. Focus on right here and right now and don’t let panic and fear of the unknown take over.

3. After | Capitalize on the learnings 

Once the period of uncertainty is over, in which every future scenario is constantly changing, how can we capitalize on the lessons learned?

By looking back, and taking a retrospective look at how we handled what happened, it is possible to:


  1. Identify the achieved benefits
  2. Identify the learnings
  3. Look at what can be improved from a continuous learning perspective



@yobi-scribings per People Revolution

And in the family, what changes? 

Moments of uncertainty and disruption within family contexts have the same structure as the moments of uncertainty we may experience in business contexts, however, managing them requires activation of different balances and strategies because of three factors:


  1. As opposed to business, we cannot change the people we live with
  2. The emotional weight is greater
  3. We need to pay more attention to balancing individual spaces and priorities with collective ones


How can we learn from what we have experienced in the context of business and family during these months?


Hoping that they can be of inspiration for you, we leave you with some questions that Tom has given us to activate this reflection and begin to process the initial learnings that this pandemic has brought to you, your families, and your organizations.


  1. What transformational learnings, gained in the professional context, can you apply to your family/social context?
  2. What transformational learnings, gained in your family/social context, can you apply to your business context?
  3. What can you personally do differently in the future to better cope/work in uncertain contexts?
  4. What can you collectively do differently in the future to better cope/work in uncertain contexts?


Now all we have to do is try to navigate the uncertainty, wave after wave.

All articles