Embracing Change and Uncertainty: a Conversation

By Annsley Merelle Ward

On April 3, 2020,  Laetitia Benard in Paris and I in London welcomed ChIPsters across Europe (and the US) for a virtual event on change and uncertainty. Joined by ChIPs Board Members Jennifer Yokoyama (Deputy GC of IP Group and Chief IP Counsel at Microsoft), Sarita Venkat (Head of Global IP Transactions at Apple) and Noreen Krall (VP of Litigation, Apple) the panel shared personal stories on coping with change before COVID-19, how those skills have prepared them for the current crisis, and how the current prolonged uncertainty and change will prepare them for the next change in their lives.  

The only thing certain in life is uncertainty and change.  Change and uncertainty finds us in our lives in different ways.  From the birth of a child, to a loss of a parent, to unexpected health issues, to a new job in a new country.  The current pandemic is another example of change and one that is unique in that we are all experiencing profound change to our lives and normal freedoms together.  But, even after the dust settles following this global event, we will continue to face uncertainty and change in our lives.  So how do we embrace change, instead of fighting it?

The conversation was rich with insight and lessons from diverse experiences.  We have distilled some of the takeaways below to share with you. 

  1. Let it go.  So difficult to do, but so important.  When things change it is natural to want to hold on to the past, – the ‘once was’  – but in so doing we do our future a disservice.  We need to learn to let go the “old normal” and embrace the potential of what could be.  If we focus on the potential for us to craft our new future free from the past, we will energize ourselves to tackle the change and grow positively.  
  2. Ask for space and patience.  It is so easy for us to keep going.  Keep things going “as normal”.  But there is no “as normal” when going through change and uncertainty.  You are riding a wave that is unpredictable.  It is important to ask for space and patience from those around you – at home or at work – and of yourself so you have the time to collect your thoughts, plan your days and look after yourself.  
  3. Let go of the judgement.  We are trained to assess and judge facts – whether they are good or bad and act accordingly.  We are geared towards identifying risk and mitigating uncertainty, while planning for certain outcomes – good or bad. And we all judge ourselves in our thankless mission for perfectionism.  All of this requires constant and consistent judgement and, with it, emotions with each judgement and outcome.  When faced with change and uncertainty that impacts us personally, it is important not to be consumed by judgements, expectations and outcomes (particularly when they aren’t as we hoped).  We cannot control all outcomes, but we can control how much emotion and energy we expend in the process. By letting go of the judgement on what you can’t control and of yourself, you free up energy.   Use that energy in focusing on the things you enjoy and that feed you, like exercise, art, cooking or giving back to your community.  
  4. Craft what you want: Change – good or bad – is often uncomfortable.  It is this discomfort that often shows us that we are growing. During these periods of growth, we are afforded an opportunity to exam ourselves – what we want, what we need and what we want our lives to look like.  Listen to your mind and body during these times of change and uncertainty as they will be telling you what is the most important to you and what are the things you can do without.  This gives you an opportunity to craft the life you want.  
  5. Tap into your empathy and communications skills.  We are natural communicators. We have had to be for millennia to ensure that we and our families are kept safe, warm and fed (and not eaten by bears).  These skills are so important during periods of change and uncertainty, particularly in the current climate.  Do not be tempted to curtail natural skills of empathy and communication in order to fit into an environment that may be defined by male-dominated traits.  Instead, tap into and use these tools to benefit you, your teams and companies.  

Here are some links to more tips and resources on embracing uncertainty but we want to continue the conversation.  We would love to hear from you of the tools and skills you have acquired in managing change.