I grew up work­ing on a small ranch in Mon­tana and my father tried to instill in me some com­mon sense. One of the things you learn is to use every­thing at hand to keep equip­ment like trac­tors work­ing and sad­dles at least func­tion­al. It wasn’t about being pret­ty or new. Duck tape and pli­ers, as I quick­ly found out, were a man’s best friends.

Dur­ing grad­u­ate school abroad, my Dad and I would try to speak reg­u­lar­ly. I remem­ber telling him what hap­pened when our toi­let was not flush­ing in our group house (one bath­room!). Among my three room­mates, I was the only one who knew how to sim­ply lift the toi­let lid box and re-con­nect the chain. My room­mates were in awe. In shar­ing this sto­ry with my father, we real­ized that what we con­sid­ered was com­mon sense may not be so com­mon – maybe it was actu­al­ly rare sense.

I have spent most of my career help­ing orga­ni­za­tions plan bet­ter in times of uncer­tain­ty. This approach called sce­nario plan­ning com­bines both sides of the brain: our think­ing, ratio­nal side with our more cre­ative and imag­i­na­tive. It’s about see­ing sig­nals and pat­terns unfold­ing – ahead of time – and help­ing an orga­ni­za­tion open to new insights, change their strat­e­gy (or, re-invent them­selves) and, at the very least, learn how to nav­i­gate uncer­tain­ties for a bet­ter future. After over 150 projects, one clear mes­sage is: the soon­er you can open to new insights, the bet­ter chance of suc­ceed­ing. I led the now infa­mous “Kodak moment” work, where exec­u­tives real­ized that the dig­i­tal wave had already hit and they hadn’t yet noticed the sig­nals.

Today’s crazy world is full of more uncer­tain­ties than I’ve ever seen. From rapid tech­nol­o­gy shifts to arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence (AI), geopol­i­tics, trade wars, con­sumers in more debt than pre-2008, the chal­lenges are enor­mous. And, most are very com­plex. We need to learn con­tin­u­ous­ly, think hard, under­stand signs, nav­i­gate, work smarter – and use all of our brains. I learned sce­nario plan­ning from the mas­ter, Pierre Wack, who first cre­at­ed the approach in the 1970s for cor­po­rate plan­ning in Roy­al Dutch Shell, who became famous when they saw the emer­gence of OPEC before any­one else did (see my recent HBR arti­cle on Pierre Wack and sce­nario plan­ning — https://hbr.org/2018/05/mindfulness-as-a-management-technique-goes-back-to-at-least-the-1970s.). He spoke and wrote about “see­ing,” see­ing the cur­rent and future envi­ron­ment with full con­scious­ness. Plan­ning well, in his expe­ri­ence, required “train­ing the mind.”

Maybe a “rare” sense today is: not need­ing a cri­sis to change. Do you real­ly need one? Does your orga­ni­za­tion? If you were to pause and real­ly think about what is going on over the next twelve months, plan dif­fer­ent­ly or re-invent how you do things, you could prob­a­bly avoid a poten­tial cri­sis. When 2019 is all done, what sto­ry do you want to be able to tell – about your orga­ni­za­tion, your lead­er­ship, even about your life?

*A short­er ver­sion of this piece was shared with 6th Lev­el Con­sult­ing — https://6thlevelconsulting.com.