In the fast-paced and ever-changing landscape of the business world, uncertainty has always been a formidable challenge. Since developing my  “Uncertainty Mapping” methodology in 2018, I have witnessed firsthand the impact it can make in helping to identify and navigate turbulent waters. 

Today the overwhelming Uncertainty is our Future with AI. How will it affect us?  What are the risks and opportunities? Which initiatives actually belong on our strategic plan? How urgent is the need to take action?  These are exactly the questions that Uncertainty Mapping addresses. 

My Ah-ha Moment with Uncertainty Mapping

Drawing from the principles of scenario planning and technology development, Uncertainty Mapping is a comprehensive methodology of 8 steps using 3 simple yet powerful tools to map uncertainty and envision our best route forward. 

A defining moment for me was during a Masterclass I taught on Uncertainty Mapping for IE University in Madrid in February 2020. The subject of discussion was the future of the Fashion Industry, and even then, the Pandemic found its way onto our diagram, a harbinger of things to come. The visionary outcomes from that session resonated deeply with me, underscoring the potential of Uncertainty Mapping in identifying and addressing critical threats proactively.

Since that remarkable experience, I have conducted Uncertainty Mappingworkshops for industry experts, executive teams, and thought leaders. In each workshop I show my participants how to apply this transformative set of tools and steps to:

  • visualize and assess uncertainties with remarkable clarity
  • perceive urgency early, in spite of the unknowns
  • thereby provide the time to transform urgent and uncertain factors in opportunities before they become disruptors

Define your Leadership Vision for AI now

We are again in such a pivotal moment. In a recent keynote at Venture Day at IE University , Mike Grandinetti warned 400+ Business Leaders to integrate AI into their everyday workflows. He reminded them, “It’s way more fun to be a disruptor than to be disrupted. Being disrupted sucks.” 

If you’re a thought leader, industry expert or innovator, you must develop your own vision of the best AI future. And you need to do it now. It’s the only way to channel the power of this tidal wave of change. My goal in sharing my approach to Uncertainty Mapping is to help you bring your vision for a future with AI into view. Once you have a vision, you can prioritize the right initiatives to get there. Can you wait until you know more? Only if you believe your competition will be waiting too. 

Uncertainty Mapping: Trade fear for curiosity

My methodology is simple, not easy. The sessions are intense and the outcomes require courage to address. If my participants have been through disruption before, they quietly say some version of, “Oh, I wish we had learned this sooner…” They see how it could have revealed the disruptors that ripped through their businesses and industries. As I advise in my workshops, when you discover the possible future scenarios, you may be tempted to ignore what you don’t want to see. Instead, I urge you to look for opportunity in the scenarios, and trade fear for curiosity, collaboration and creative thinking. I wish you success on your journey and invite you to reach out to me with questions or feedback about the following steps.

1.  PESTLE Diagram: Collect Key Factors

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Brainstorm around factors in each category

To begin the journey, create a P.E.S.T.L.E. diagram to ideate and sort key factors affecting your business in the categories of Politics, Economics, Society, Technology, Legal and the Environment. This tool helps you gain a holistic view of your organization’s internal and external environment, laying the foundation for your strategic approach. The ideation excercise works best in a group, but with each individual adding their own ideas using post-its on a white board or virtually on a Miro board.

2.  Uncertainty Map: Chart Impact vs. Uncertainty

Create a new diagram 3 x 3 rows to chart the impact and uncertainty of each factor. The Y axis measures from low to moderate to critical business impact. The X axis measures from low uncertainty (known) to moderate to high uncertainty (unknown) to occur. Transfer ALL of your key factors from the P.E.S.T.L.E. onto your Uncertainty Map in the appropriate box. This visual representation will shed light on critical areas that require further exploration. In particular, the top right box holds factors that would disrupt the business, but are very unlikely to occur.

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3. Identify the Game Changers

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Identify possible game-changers within your Uncertainty Map from the top right box. Select the two most critical uncertainties from your game changers, one related to technology, and one related to market development. 

4.  Critical Scenarios Matrix: Create Potential Futures

Map them against each other in a Critical Scenarios Matrix. Consider potential outcomes of each of the four potential combinations. With these different scenarios in view you can devise thought leading and innovative strategies to address the outcome. Your future vision comes into view. 

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Create four potential scenarios: critical technology uncertainty in top row vs. the critical market-related uncertainty in the right column

5. Strategize for Success in Uncertain Times

Now that you have identified potential scenarios, it’s essential to consider the strategies for each one. Assess how your competitors and stakeholders might respond to these scenarios and strategize accordingly. Understanding their possible actions will allow you to prepare better and maintain a competitive edge in uncertain times. This will sharpen your vision and ideas for shaping AI in your future and puts all of the potential strategies into context. 

6. The Aha-Moment of the “Opportunity Future”

In my workshops, this is when the room or zoom goes quiet. Envisioning The “Opportunity Future” against the other scenarios can be mind blowing. What looked risky now looks advantageous. This scenario has the lowest risk of disruption, where competitors are unlikely to venture. It offers the greatest chance for innovation success, even though it may not be proven and could seem risky. 

7. Create a sense of urgency 

By creating a sense of urgency around this scenario, you can prioritize resources and investments to seize the opportunities it presents. And if you don’t? Do you think your competitors will choose to do nothing as well? 

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Viewed against other scenarios The Opportunity Future reveals valuable advantages

8. Strategize Initiatives

Finally, with a clearer vision of potential outcomes and urgencies, it’s crucial to re-prioritize existing current initiatives and develop new ones based on the scenarios and new insights. What can you shape? How can you shape it? Allocate resources and effort to initiatives that align with your strategic vision and address the potential outcomes of uncertainty. Simultaneously, assess projects that are no longer as urgent and consider cutting or shifting them to free up capacity for more critical endeavors.

My journey through 5 years of Uncertainty Mapping

As I reflect on my journey with Uncertainty Mapping, I am grateful to  Néstor Miranda Carús of IE University for inspiring me to explore the value of scenario planning in my own strategic planning and thought leadership. Since then I have used it to strategize for the auto industry, future of trade shows, and to provide my thought leadership clients with a format to develop their own vision for the future. After all, leading isn’t just about having followers. It’s about knowing where to go and how best to get there. I wrote my first article about Uncertainty Mapping when planning for the unknowns of 2020. From Brexit to climate change and the relentless march of technology, uncertainties were rife. Today, with the tidal wave of AI that is breaking over us now, we need tools and methodologies now to shape our best future. 

I invite you to reach out to me with questions and feedback about this methodology. Just send me a dm or sign up for a virtual coffee here: