INLS385-002 Spring 2020


Success, failure and uncertainty

Consider this video in terms of design and uncertainty.

Many important problems involve decision making under uncertainty - that is, choosing actions based on often imperfect observations, with unknown outcomes.

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Failing by Design by Rita McGrath in The Harvard Business Review, April 2011

risk and uncertainty comparison

But what about risk? Uncertainty and risk are not the same thing. Whereas uncertainty deals with possible outcomes that are unknown, risk is a certain type of uncertainty that involves the real possibility of loss.

Risks can be more comprehensively accounted for than uncertainty.

Uncertainty is a state of having limited knowledge of current conditions or future outcomes. It is a major component of risk, which involves the likelihood and scale of negative consequences. Managers often deal with uncertainty in their work; to minimize the risk that their decisions will lead to undesired outcomes, they must develop the skills and judgment necessary for reducing this uncertainty. Managing uncertainty and risk also involves mitigating or even removing things that inhibit effective decision-making or adversely affect performance.

One cause of uncertainty is proximity: things that are about to happen are easier to estimate than those further out in the future. One approach to dealing with uncertainty is to put off decisions until data become more accessible and reliable. Of course, delaying some decisions can bring its own set of risks, especially when the potential negative consequences of waiting are great.

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Though you don't have to read them now, you might want to read them after the session, or at some relevant future time.

Jalalpur, India, from The Guardian
  1. Three Proven Ways To Navigate Uncertainty by Alison Randel in The Ready, 28 July 2016
  2. 6 Strategies For Dealing With Uncertainty In Business by Don Peppers in Fast Company, 13 March 2012

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We will have a group exercise in class

Uncertainty deals with possible outcomes that are unknown,
risk is a certain type of uncertainty that involves the real possibility of loss.
We will be dealing with more uncertainty than risk,
but we might consider both circumstances.

Each group will be presented with a problem to solve using both the materials provided and, if you wish, any other techological tool at your disposal. The specific task for each group will be presented along with the materials.


slides for session 27

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something to take away

Keeping up traditions

The band Asleep at the Wheel is a leading exponent of keeping the idea of western swing alive.

Western swing music is a subgenre of American country music that originated in the late 1920s in the West and South among the region's Western string bands. It is dance music, often with an up-tempo beat, which attracted huge crowds to dance halls and clubs in Texas, Oklahoma and California during the 1930s and 1940s until a federal war-time nightclub tax in 1944 contributed to the genre's decline.
The movement was an outgrowth of jazz. The music is an amalgamation of rural, cowboy, polka, folk, Dixieland jazz and blues blended with swing; and played by a hot string band often augmented with drums, saxophones, pianos and, notably, the steel guitar. The electrically amplified stringed instruments, especially the steel guitar, give the music a distinctive sound. Later incarnations have also included overtones of bebop.
Western swing differs in several ways from the music played by the nationally popular horn-driven big swing bands of the same era. In Western bands, even fully orchestrated bands, vocals, and other instruments followed the fiddle's lead. Additionally, although popular horn bands tended to arrange and score their music, most Western bands improvised freely, either by soloists or collectively.
Prominent groups during the peak of Western swing's popularity included The Light Crust Doughboys, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies, Spade Cooley and His Orchestra and Hank Thompson And His Brazos Valley Boys. Contemporary groups include Asleep at the Wheel and the Hot Club of Cowtown.
According to Merle Travis, "Western swing is nothing more than a group of talented country boys, unschooled in music, but playing the music they feel, beating a solid two-four rhythm to the harmonies that buzz around their brains. When it escapes in all its musical glory, my friend, you have Western swing."

And then, there are the originals.

This was shown in movie theaters between double features or before the main feature.

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