The ascendency of Donald Trump might be the most glaring recent example of the fact that we live in wild and unpredictable times. But his shock election is hardly the only one. From Brexit to the chaos in the Middle East, across the globe politics has clearly broken free of all the old stories we used to contain and explain it.

And thanks to rapid technological change, the world of business is just as crazy. According to research from Oxford University and Citi, a little more than half of current jobs in developed countries are at risk from automation. Yes, half. And that's not even mentioning longer-term but basically existential threats to humanity like climate change or malevolent AI. How do you plan for all that?

Don't worry if you feel like it's impossible to chart a course through waters this uncertain. Paul Michelman feels the same way, and as the editor-in-chief of the MIT Sloan Management Review it's his full-time job to research and wrestle with the meaning of the changes that are roiling our world.

Instead of offering empty words of comfort, in a recent note he provided overwhelmed leaders with some wise but simple advice instead. Thankfully it's both effective and actionable - and doesn't demand superhuman prognostication abilities. Here's his simple recommendation:

You can begin by going outside. Get out of your office and into the parking lot. Jump in a car and take a former colleague to lunch. Hop on a plane and go to a conference. Find a lecture to attend. Pack up your laptop and head for a coworking space. Cross state lines.

Put yourself someplace where something unexpected is more likely to happen. Give yourself an opportunity to learn. But whatever you do, do something that is not a part of your routine - and then commit to doing so routinely. If your job doesn't have you out of the office at least a few days every month, start blocking time on your calendar and force yourself to be somewhere else once a fortnight. Just as important, make it a top priority for those you manage to do the same. That means giving people the direction and the time to follow your lead.

And here's his humble conclusion: leaders need to "see for ourselves what is happening. We need to listen to what other people are saying. We need to take a breath and imagine how our own lives and circumstances might be transformed. Reading MIT Sloan Management Review is not enough - even if you read Wired and The Economist, too." In short, in uncertain times, you really, really need to get out of your office more.

How much time do you spend away from your desk? Is it enough?

Published on: Nov 30, 2016
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