Ten steps to manage things we don’t know today


G Balasubramaniam
Editor-in-Chief, The Progressive School, New Delhi

How does one cope with changes which are unpredictable and unknown? Should we accept this with pleasure or pain? Here are ten steps as critical for being a part of the change and as instruments in the process and product of the impact of such changes.

After discovery of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell made an observation, “The day will come when the man at the telephone will be able to see the distant person to whom he is speaking.“ Graham Bell was not a soothsayer, but his prediction did come true. The magnitude and direction of the knowledge dynamics is becoming increasingly unpredictable. It appears to encompass all known theories of knowledge and to pervade into all material and non-material instruments that deliver, process and produce knowledge. Alongside, it also intervenes with the operational domain of knowledge impacting skills of all types, modifying and re-engineering them at a rate much faster than one could expect. It also provokes the need for change as the design of instruments and appliances that drives our lifestyles and social cohesions.

No wonder, therefore, Peter Dixon points out in his book “The Future of (Almost) everything” – Take hold of the Future or the Future will take hold of you.” A royal conflict between the Mind and the Matter to establish their superiority and to decide who will be the driver of the other is already underway, though the battle will continue for a few more generations to come.

We are therefore in a critical period of the global exploration, where managing change at an unimaginable speed is required as the most appropriate skill for survival, existence and growth. Three major factors that drive the change – speed, divergence and convergence of knowledge, and increasing irrelevance of institutionalized structures – will call for newer skills of social adaptation. Both as an individual and as a community, the humans would be required to evolve in newer formats, whether it is desirable or not, whether it is productive or not, whether it is safer or not, whether it offers a better world or not. While as a changing world, we are left with no time for holding these back, it also appears that we are left with no options but to be a part of this change.

How does one cope with such changes which are unpredictable and unknown? Should we accept this with pleasure or pain? It would depend both on the individual and social mindsets. However, I consider the following ten steps as critical for being a part of the change and as instruments in the process and product of the impact of such changes.

1. Amusement

Changes, most often, bring with them a sense of amusement. Initially telephone was an amusement, Radio was an amusement, Television was an amusement. Airplane was an amusement. And almost every new discovery or innovation brought with it the sense of amusement. These produce a sense of fun, a sense of adventure, a sense of romance and a sense of entertainment. Over a period, it manifests into a need and a utility, before it evolves as a business with associated economic opportunities. As humans are always curious to know, to explore – this sense of amusement – acts as a tonic for nourishing the self. Hence changes are initially welcomed as an itinerary for travel into unfathomed oceans of knowledge. So be amused! That would mean you have bought your ticket for a journey to change from where you are and what you are!

2. Alertness

Alertness is one’s ability to be sensitive to all that happens around. In a globalized world with gateways of knowledge widely open, it appears important of all of us, immaterial of the domain of work and function, to be alert to the knowledge flow through new theories, processes, discoveries and inventions. Alertness catalyzes our intrinsic urge for change. It prepares us to examine closely the winds of change and to know the direction of the wind so that we can sail smoothly. Further alertness is required to be a forerunner for change, because the late-comers in any changing process stand to lose the gain of the initial windfalls associated with newer deliveries of knowledge and skills.

3. Awareness

While alertness ‘sensitizes’ us to the spectrum of newer domains of changes, awareness is the first conscious step one needs to take to know the details to some inner depth. Awareness may give a bird’s eye-view of the landscape of change, it does not impart any competency that would be required to be a part of the change. Awareness calls for effort, focus, time and a reasonable amount of aptitude to know the change at least in chosen fields of knowledge with which the individual is associated or intends to associate. Awareness is the key to unlock the potentials in the various treasure houses of knowledge and skills. In the absence of awareness, one could make either wrong choices or decisions which are not wholly rewarding. With its intense relationship with consciousness, this facilitates an excellent logistic network in the brain. “Consciousness is no longer a vague collection of undefined circular concepts, but a system of hierarchies that can be ranked numerically,” says Michio Kaku in his book The Power of Mind.

4. Access

As awareness gives only a ‘grass-hopping’ experience, it doesn’t help to engage with the ‘mindscape’ of the information, knowledge and associate skills. It is important to have “access” to the gateways of change and seek appropriate information, knowledge and skills, if one desires to pursue one’s journey in the transformational process that is brought about by change. “Access” has to be obtained both with the local and global resources to understand the manifestation of change in its total perspective and in its entirety. Access, is not necessarily technological, but could be through various other sources, aural, visual and textual. The change seeker has to explore the possibility of the universe of knowledge in the arena of change and access them for reaping the maximum benefit.

5. Acceptance

Awareness and Access, provide the much need foundation for pursuit of knowledge about change. It enhances the level of confidence about the self, simultaneously improving the comfort level to relate the environment and the universe of change. In short, it creates an “acceptance’ about change. Acceptance eliminates fear and anxiety, thus helping the change manager to initiate necessary steps towards the process of change and to be an active participant in the transformational process. This “acceptance” calls for engagement with realities back and forth; hence, the courage to tackle the latent and associated challenges in bringing about the change. Acceptance reflects ability of the individual to negotiate with the unknown in spite the invisible risks embedded in them, just for the joy of discovering the fullness of the self.

6. Attitude

Developing a right attitude towards the future and arrivals of the future is very important to manage the future. Often times, our conditioned past, our given heritage, our learnt convictions offer extreme resistance to change. This resistance is often born out of fear, insecurity, stress and ‘learnt helplessness.’ While accepting change holistically might call for reasonable boldness or wisdom, our right attitude itself would pave the way to accept changes with patience, hope, sincerity and joy. A right attitude provides the trigger for purposeful and active engagement with the unknown. It fires the passion to investigate the unknown with curiosity and excitement.

7. Adaptability

Change calls for unlearning what is known and to learn from what is unknown. Inability to adapt the newer knowledge, skill and wisdom is proof enough for the ‘static’ nature of the individual. This doesn’t help in active engagement with change and further retards the speed of change. Those who lack adaptability fail to turn as effective leaders. Lack of adaptability may be an outcome of self-defeat, lack of self-esteem, fear of the unknown and poor sense of enterprise and risk taking. In professional fronts, they stand to lose both in short term and long term growth. Adaptability should be focused, moderated and mentored. This would enable a smooth change over. Adaptability is often the trait of winners.

8. Assimilation

Assimilation of knowledge and skills for the future is not a random exercise. It is an exercise in organized knowledge and effective skill acquisition. Acquisition and assimilation help in building competency. They also enhance self-confidence and facilitate with necessary power for performance. When it comes to acquisition and assimilation of the inputs for the future, one must do both extensive and intensive exercise in the pursuit of information and knowledge, because in several situations such inputs may be limited or less accessible or be inadequate in their clarity. Assimilation helps in moving with ease from “knowledge workers” to “knowledge technologists” as they can adventure with knowledge as forerunners in the field of activity. Those who are passionate about acquisition and assimilation of new knowledge have an immense potential to become “knowledge leaders.”

9. Authenticity

Curiosity, speed, drive and urge for leadership often drive people to brand themselves as advocates of change. However, their exposition becomes challengeable if it is not authentic. It has been seen in several exercises of knowledge branding that the arguments lack evidence and proof, and hence are less authentic than what is proposed. Caution must be exercised both in acquisition, assimilation and advocacy of newer fashions of knowledge and skills that they are not only driven by charisma, but by the latent truth and majesty of the content and matter.

10. ’AHA’ Experience

Both insights and travelogues into the ‘unknown’ and ‘future paradigms’ provide an “Aha experience.” It may be short term or optimal, but they give this experience both to the producer and consumer. However, it is important to ensure that this “aha” feeling is valid and reliable, and not just driven by the myth of a fashion or the gimmicks of the novelty painted with the core value of the content, be it knowledge or material. Producers and consumers who enjoy this “aha” experience get more value from the product or the process, than what is its listed price.

“What is unknown” could both be terrible and exciting. It depends on the mindset of the individual who seeks to move to the unknown. The process may be difficult and adventurous, but worth it. After all, the saying goes “Ships are safe in the harbor, but that is what they are not meant for.”

G.Balasubramanian, Editor-in-chief of The Progressive School Magazine is a leading educator in the field of school education, curriculum designer, author, HR trainer and educational administrator. Widely traveled, he has authored several books for schools, educational administrators and is a premier teacher-trainer both across the country and abroad. He has authored – Mindscaping Education, Case Studies in Classrooms, Quality Spectrum – A school’s bandwidth and Safety in Schools – Issues & concerns.


The adult human brain has an average weight of 1.3 to 1.5 kg (3 lbs).
The average volume of the female brain is around 1130 cc and that of the male brain 1260 cc.
For the same body height and surface area, the volume of
the male brain is about 100 cc more than that of the female brain. Individual variations do occur.

Researchers say that Encephalization quotient (EQ) which is a measure of the relative brain size (defined as the ratio between actual brain mass and predicted brain mass) of an animal of a given size is a rough measure of the intelligence of the animal. Mean EQ for mammals is around 1, with carnivores, cetaceans, and primates above 1, and insectivores and herbivores below 1.