The power of predictability: An underrated concept for our lives

As sometimes happens when I’m in the shower or commuting, I randomly think about little nuggets of an idea, and then before long, I have to write about it. This isn’t particularly a novel insight or anything, but I was thinking about the power of predictability.

In a real sense, our day-to-day lives are powered by predictability. For the most part. Obviously, wouldn’t be life if there wasn’t unpredictability, and the adversity (or sometimes good stuff) it brings, and the ways we respond to it.

But predictability is the real engine of our day-to-day lives, as well as our long-term ability to function and plan.

Even though it has a negative connotation as a character or personality trait, predictability allows us to plan our daily routines, our schedules around other people, work, kids, vacations, and so forth.

In fact, I’m barely even scratching the surface on how complex predictability actually is, how intertwined it is into our daily lives, and how utterly chaotic life would be without that built-in predictability. Predictability is so baked into nearly every interaction we have without us realizing it.

I’m a bit too sleepy to wax philosophical tonight, but if you’re interested in going deeper on this concept, and how predictability is essentially the secret sauce of our economy and modern life, check out this 1995 Harvard Business Review article. (I will note, because I can’t help myself, that while I agree with the overall set-up of the article, I vehemently disagree with the conclusions established therein. And to think, the author is railing against virtual organizations … in 1995! I’ll have to give a more full-throated response to the article at some later date.)

Here’s an excerpt, though, of a part I do agree with:

“In sum, predictability built the trust that allowed people to synchronize their actions in mutually productive ways.”

Suffice it to say, the coronvirus in 2020 has toppled the idea of predictability. It’s one of the rare events that’s so massive and all-penetrating, that it’s up-ended the predictability of day-to-day living while also making it impossible to plan weeks or months in advance.

As it stands, school districts throughout the United States are trying to figure out what they are going to do in the fall. Athletes are up in the air.

It feels like untethered chaos. And that’s a hard way to live a life. On top of the general anxiety many are feeling from the lockdowns, the uncertainty and fear over contracting the virus itself, and the economic ramifications.

I couldn’t fathom being a parent right now with a kid with school uncertain while also juggling my own work prospects, whatever those may, if they even exist.

To quote Peter Finch playing Howard Beale in Network, it’s mass madness, you maniacs.

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