Finding Possibility in Uncertainty with Susanna and Nathan Furr

Finding Possibility in Uncertainty with Susanna and Nathan Furr

Learning from entrepreneur Susannah Harmon Furr and INSEAD professor Nathan Furr 

We are inspired to learn from Susannah Harmon Furr and Nathan Furr.

Susannah Harmon Furr is an entrepreneur, designer, art historian, and contrarian. Her clothing line was inspired by the intricate embroidery Dutch women painstakingly rendered on their plain uniforms—details often invisible to all but the wearer—and its significance in their daily lives. She recently started a biointensive garden as part of a larger “hope accelerator” in Normandy.

Nathan Furr is a professor of strategy and innovation at INSEAD in Paris and a recognized expert in the fields of innovation and technology strategy. Professor Furr earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University where he studied how innovators commercialize their ideas. His bestselling books include The Innovator’s Method(Harvard Business School Press, 2014); Leading Transformation(Harvard Business School Press, 2018); Innovation Capital (Harvard Business School Press, 2019). He has published broadly in Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review, Forbes, Inc, and academic journals. He is an Innosight Fellow, has been nominated for the Thinkers 50 Innovation Award, and works with leading companies such as Google, Microsoft, Citi, ING, Philips, Solvay and others.

Susannah and Nathan have made joint research and co-authored a book The Upside of Uncertainty (Harvard Business School Press, 2022). They are making speeches, running workshop’s and has created a center of learning and community surrounding Uncertainty and Possibility, the UP School, teaching about strategy, approaches and tools. Susannah and Nathan are a couple and the parents of four children.

Susanna and Nathan are passionate about encouraging individuals and businesses to find the possibility in the unknown. 

The episode is recorded as both an Audio and Video Podcast. It focuses on Susannah’s and Nathan’s journey and approaches that they find helpful for top companies, leaders, and boards.

Welcome to listen and learn about

  • Susannah and Nathan and how it all started
  • Who is best in handling uncertainty
  • The uncertainty Framework 
  • Reframe, Prime, Do, Sustain
  • How can boards understand uncertainty
  • A myth about uncertainty
  • Leaders to follow
  • Susannah and Nathan as furnitures

Uncertainty in Context  

We live in an increasingly uncertain world – from geopolitics and climate to the economy, it feels like everything is up in the air. We must constantly adapt to regular uncertainty, while ensuring that we commit the time and energy to a plan. And yet, amid all this uncertainty, there are still opportunities to be found.

Furr’s Framework and collection of Tools 

The Furrs based their research on insights from neuroscience, psychology, innovation and behavioural economics and developed a four-dimension framework including tested tools to help both individuals, companies and boards to better handle uncertainty.

The framework is organized in a red-cross style of dimensions and include

  • Reframe Your Situation

When uncertainty is framed in a negative light, it can lead to negative outcomes, such as causing people to make decisions that are not in their best interest. When it comes to finding possibility in uncertainty, it’s all about reframing. Instead of looking at the situation as a negative, try to see it as an opportunity. A tool to reframe is the Infinite Game, an approach created by professor and philosopher James Carse. This lens allows you to play a game or perform a role that is not fixed. You can create rules and boundaries around the game.

  • Prime Yourself for New Risks

Priming yourself with knowledge of your acceptance of risk and the willingness to take on new projects helps you better confront uncertainty. You may take more minor risks by outsourcing or trying something different to broaden your experience in order to be able to tackle the unknown better later.

  • Do Something

A proven idea is to take gradual steps by making many minor modifications rather than trying to make one significant shift. Under uncertainty, it is impossible to estimate goals, but focusing on intrinsic values, such as learning and growth, will ensure the ability to succeed.

  • Sustain Yourself.

Emotional hygiene and a reality check are two ingredients necessary to sustain action in times of uncertainty. Knowing that setbacks or disasters are learning experiences that will help you grow is essential.

The background, and framework, including tools with examples from companies and situations, are illustrated below and further explained in the interview and the book.

The Benefits of Uncertainty

In today’s world, getting caught up in the constant pursuit of certainty is easy. We often strive for certainty in our careers, relationships, and day-to-day lives. But what if we embraced uncertainty instead? What if we saw the potential for possibility in the unknown?

Here are some benefits of uncertainty that may just convince you to embrace it:

  1. It’s a Breeding Ground for Creativity

When you’re uncertain about what’s going to happen next, your mind is more open to creative possibilities. This is because you’re not fixated on one specific outcome, so you can explore different ideas and options. This can lead to more creativity in your work and business, new and innovative solutions to problems, and a greater sense of overall satisfaction in life.

  1. It Keeps You Flexible and agile

If you’re used to things always going a certain way, uncertainty can be unsettling. But it can also help you become more flexible and agile. When you’re faced with an uncertain situation, you have to think on your feet and be quick to adapt. This can help you become better at problem-solving and dealing with change in general.

Stephen Hawking famously said that “intelligence is the ability to adapt to change”. He discovered that if you can’t predict what is going to happen, the best way to succeed is to adjust quickly when new problems arise.

In a constantly changing world, it might be tempting to give up planning because you don’t know what will happen. But, great performance requires planning. Even if the plans can’t predict upcoming events, great performance requires a direction. Companies need to be flexible and continuously make decisions in order to be ready for extreme volatility.

The world is changing rapidly, making leading others even tougher. There’s never enough information to make the best decision, leaders can make bad decisions that leave them feeling alone and in darkness. In such times, the leader needs to stay human. Leaders should admit their mistakes, confront their vulnerability and share what’s going on in their minds and hearts.

The Boards role facing Uncertainty

Combining experiences and insights from Digoshen and Heidrick & Struggles, KPMG, MML, Sidley Austin, we outline some areas and questions useful for Chairs and Boards in handling uncertainty;

Regular Reviews of Contingency & Crisis Response Plans Stress Test Crisis Oversight

  • What are the financial risks in a crisis, any risk of loan defaults and/or covenant breaches?
  • What unintended consequences and potential future risks do today’s actions invite?
  • Have the crises and communication plans been stress tested, and is the board included?

Opportunities Align Today’s Short-Term Decisions With the Long-Term Mission and Strategy

  • Will today’s “new normal” remain? What contingencies are needed?
  • What opportunities do we see in M&A, talent acquisition, company acquisition, new products, or programs? Lessons we learned are well incorporated into a new board process, structure and competence

Risk Oveersight Monitor the Evolving and Emerging Risk Profile

  • What are the new/emerging risks?
  • How is our ecosystem evolving, and what or who is entering or exiting our ecosystem?

People & Culture Build Resilience for Future Crises

  • Have you reconsidered succession planning for all on top levels?
  • Is the organization agile enough to respond to new opportunities and a changing risk environment, and where do we need to focus on improving our agility?

Regular Reviews of Strategy Strategy Requirements

  • How will employees and consumers/customers behave differently when the crisis is past?
  • How can we best (re)organize our assets and business model to drive future revenues?

Adjust board structure, processes, competencies, and diversity

  • How are lessons we learned incorporated into a new board operation?


The upside of uncertainty is finding possibility in the unknown. If we can learn to embrace change and accept that things are constantly in flux, we can open up to new opportunities and experiences. Instead of seeing the world as a scary place full of uncertainties, we can view it as a playground full of possibilities.

Learn More

About Susannah and Nathan Furr

Website  The upside of uncertainty

Nathan Furr at INSEAD


Can we get better at managing uncertainty

Growing Resilience in uncertain times


The Upside of Uncertainty

The Innovator’s Method

Leading Transformation

Innovation Capital

Previous Digoshen Blogpost and Podcast with Professor Nathan Furr

Other inspiration 

Innovation and corporate renewal also disrupt boards by Digoshen and SISU Boards

Building Your Uncertainty Advantage by BCG

Leading Boards Rethinking Strategy and enabling Innovation

Four ways board are driving innovation in a volatile environment

Digoshen Insight Guide on Technology Accelerated Innovation


This blog post was originally shared at the blog of Digoshen,  and the blog of the Digoshen founder

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