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Meet Dr. Keith Bickel Author of Mastering Uncertainty: The 3 Strategies You Need To Know
http://www.bookpleasures.com/websitepublisher/articles/4355/1/Meet-Dr-Keith-Bickel-Author-of-Mastering-Uncertainty-The-3-Strategies-You-Need-To-Know/Page1.html
Norm Goldman


Reviewer & Author Interviewer, Norm Goldman. Norm is the Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com.

He has been reviewing books for the past fifteen years when he retired from the legal profession.

To read more about Norm Follow Here






 
By Norm Goldman
Published on November 30, 2011
 
                                     

Norm Goldman, Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com Interviews Dr. Keith Bickel Author of Mastering Uncertainty: The 3 Strategies You Need to Know


                                     


Click Here To Purchase Mastering Uncertainty: The 3 Strategies You Need To Know

Author: Keith Bickel, Ph.D

ISBN: 9780578093994

Publisher: Strategy Press



Today, Norm Goldman Publisher & Editor of bookpleasures.com is honored to have as our guest, Dr. Keith Bickel author of Mastering Uncertainty: The 3 Strategies You Need To Know.

Keith is a business executive and strategist living in the Washington, DC area.  His more than two decades of professional experience span the public, private, and non-profit sectors, including Fortune 50 companies, technology start-ups, the White House Office of Management and Budget, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the World Bank.  He has particular expertise in leading data-related venture start-ups and building strategy functions – from research and competitive intelligence to strategic communications with Boards of Directors.

Dr. Bickel is a frequent speaker on strategy and technology issues before select audiences.  He has published widely over the years, having written a book on Marine Corps counter-insurgency strategy, OpEds for various media outlets, and reviews for peer-reviewed journals and grant-making institutions. 

Dr. Bickel graduated with Honors in History and a minor in Neuropsychology from the University of Pennsylvania, and holds both a Masters in International Economics and a Ph.D. in Strategic Studies from the Johns Hopkins University.

Good day Keith and thanks for participating in our interview.

Norm:

What inspired you to write Mastering Uncertainty and how did you decide you were reading to write the book?

Keith:

Originally, I was not intending to write a book. A client had asked me to help them think about strategic planning under conditions of uncertainty. At the time I thought that I’d find and summarize a few good articles for them and that would be the end of it. The more I read, however, the more I realized that what was needed did not exist. There just wasn’t a whole lot out there to help businesses focus and plan in the midst of chaos and turbulence, and that what did exist focused mostly on psychology or touting innovation as a single point solution.

From that initial project, I saw an opportunity to help companies navigate turbulent environments and the ensuing fears that misdirect or even paralyze business investment. I felt that I could provide the lay business reader with the concise framework and conditions for developing the right strategy and then the practical knowledge of what to invest in and how to re-organize their business to survive the chaos and turmoil of uncertainty. The result, I believe, is a book that businesses can use to navigate difficult environments rather than simply give up and stick their heads in the sand. If they can stay focused and execute on what is in the book, they can survive and emerge stronger than their competitors.

Norm:

Where did your ideas come from?

Keith:

The ideas reflected in Mastering Uncertainty started with an extensive research effort in the management strategy field, and were refined over time through discussions with business leaders. Also, from years of consulting and corporate experience, I had observed smart business and government agency executives get stuck in the mindsets that had served them previously when what they really needed were the right intellectual tools to adapt to the rapidly changing environment around them. This combination of research, feedback, and personal experience led me to focus on developing a practical approach that would work for the business reader looking not just for ideas, but ideas they could implement.

Norm:

What can readers expect to take away from it?

Keith:

I think the key take away from Mastering Uncertainty is that readers don’t need a PhD or have worked for McKinsey in order to develop a strategy for their business and execute it successfully in the face of uncertainty. They just need to follow the elements outlined in the book, adjusting of course for the particulars of their firm. The difficulty is not in understanding the concepts and how to invest and organize for the future; it’s in the discipline of following through, which no book can impart.

Norm:

Is your book meant for seasoned business people and executives or new ones as well?

Keith:

Ah, this is a great question. I have come to find that there are two answers: mine and the one that others keep telling me. First, mine. Mastering Uncertainty is really aimed at decision-makers, which generally means more seasoned managers and leaders. The reason for this is because their experience allows them to relate to both the anecdotes and the merits of key issues I discuss. That said, new executives will find ideas and issues in the book that they will inevitably encounter, so becoming familiar with them early on will be beneficial to them.

What I find more intriguing, however, is how others react to my work. I am constantly amazed how many people tell me that they think they could use it in their personal lives. Tossing aside my caveats about the business cases and focus of the book, they concentrate on the three strategies and how the core elements are applicable to whatever aspect of their life seems unsettled at the moment. To me, I am amazed at how hungry they are for some semblance of control, and they seem to find a kernel of it in this work. This has been an unintended, but quite rewarding, response to the book.

Norm:

To a great extent your book focuses on three management strategies, pioneer, pouncer and hedging strategies. How did you come up with these strategies and why are they important?

Keith:

When I looked at firms dealing with uncertain environments, over time I began to notice a pattern to successful responses, which became the underlying basis for my three strategies. There were firms that moved early (but not always first) to mold the competitive environment in their favor. I took to thinking of them as pioneers not just because they were early, but also because they took big risks exploring the undefined, and shaping the environment to suit their needs. Then, there were firms that were active in reconfiguring their own capabilities in order to be able to move faster than the pioneers and their peers. I began to think of them as pouncers because they actively watched, stalked and positioned themselves to jump on and then run ahead of the competition at the first possible moment. And then there were firms that waited, but invested in multiple possible outcomes so that they could carefully but successfully enter the “new” marketplace once the uncertainty had played out. Note that they did not wait for waiting’s sake. They were clearly hedgers because they invested in capabilities that ran counter to what they otherwise would have preferred to invest in.

Taken together, these were the three strategies that led firms facing uncertainty to be successful. What I’ve done in Mastering Uncertainty is distill the essence of what led to success, making these strategies easily understandable so they can be implemented by anyone seeking to remain competitive in the chaos of uncertainty.

Norm:

How do you believe these strategies would come into play given today's economic climate?

Keith:

In these turbulent times like these, it becomes imperative that every business and professional have a strategic plan that takes into account the uncertainty and risk of their respective markets/segments, etc. That plan may make the difference between their company surviving or not, their having a paycheck or not, maybe even their family thriving or not.

And if ever there was an era in recent memory marked by uncertainty, I can’t think of a better example than now. There is the potential collapse of the Eurozone, and it’s implications on global trade and likely shocks to the private banking system. There are still the myriad weaknesses of our own economy, with the drag of consumer unemployment and potential for blow-out government deficit spending for years to come (think Japan). The competing claims of economists tell us that no one really knows whether any of these disruptions lead to deflation (Japan) or inflation (Zimbabwe), and thus how to position a business to survive. Meanwhile, let’s not forget all these Millenials in Silicon Valley and elsewhere creating new technologies and business models at a stunningly rapid clip, any number of which will disrupt existing businesses.

Norm:

What did you enjoy most about writing Mastering Uncertainty and how will you be promoting the book?

Keith:

I really liked the idea that I could actually help people and businesses by explaining a topic that I am passionate about, and give them the tools to succeed in these times of volatile markets, tighter budgets, high unemployment, and increased competition. Clearly I’ve hit a nerve, based on initial feedback, since so many individuals to whom I’ve talked have expressed a hunger for guidance to help them face uncertainty.

As for promotion, I will be engaging in a number of closely related activities. I have begun writing articles and responding to business-related media inquiries. I have been posting chapter snippets on FaceBook and my own online “bookshelf” at StrategyReads.com. And as time permits I will be doing speaking engagements, both panel and key-note, to share the strategies with audiences (and doing book signings afterwards). If readers are interested in having me come speak to their groups, I would be happy to discuss that with them. [Ed. Note: Keith can be reached at kb@strategyreads.com.]

Norm:

Where can our readers find out more about you and your book?

Keith:

The best way to find out about the book is both through online bookstores like Amazon  on FaceBook or StrategyReads.com. Readers will find short versions of my bio on Amazon book pages, or on LinkedIn, though you’ve done a masterful job above already, Norm.

Norm:

What is next for Keith Bickel?

Keith:

Well, by training and personal inclination, I am what you might call a design-and-build kind of guy. Once I design a strategy, I like to execute and manage it. Looking ahead, I am exploring opportunities to help companies conduct their strategic planning using the concepts outlined in the book. The goal would be to facilitate and help them write the strategic and tactical plans that fit their particular circumstances. Then, on an as-needed basis, I could step in temporarily to help management execute on the strategy.

Norm:

Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered?

Keith:

Just that it has been quite a pleasure working with you, Norm. This has been an enjoyable experience, and I will certainly be passing that sentiment along to my fellow authors.

Norm:

Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.

Click Here To Read Norm's Review of Mastering Uncertainty

Click Here To Purchase Mastering Uncertainty: The 3 Strategies You Need To Know