In the modern age uncertainty is an inherent part of many professional fields. Often uncertainty is viewed as negative, something to minimise and mitigate. However, times of uncertainty can offer opportunities to learn and develop both individuals and organisations. In this paper we explore how uncertainty is dealt with in two industries, where it is viewed in diametrically opposite lights: the finance and energy sectors. In financial circles uncertainty is an inherent part of practice, and a necessary part of progress. In the energy sector, on the other hand, uncertainty is more frequently associated with a loss of control, which can lead to incidents.
Based on thematic analysis of 30 semi-structured interviews conducted in the finance sector, two prominent strategies were identified that were used by financial professionals during times of uncertainty: help seeking from peers and external networks, and self-reflection on their past experiences to tackle new challenges. The results of a social network analysis survey of 35 employees in an energy company, combined with 18 semi-structured follow up interviews, highlighted that the same strategies of utilising relationships to gather help, in addition to reflecting on past events formed the core part of the energy sector’s strategies to deal with uncertainty. Nonetheless, this comparative study highlighted that the specific ways in which these strategies were employed were highly dependent on the context of both the industry and the role of the employee within their company. For example, while reflective strategies were employed in both sectors, the finance professionals primarily focused on solitary reflective practices, while in the energy company reflection most commonly occurred in a group during company mandated meetings.
Despite the differences in their views on uncertainty the finance and energy sectors utilised similar strategies when faced with uncertainty. However, there are many differences in how these practices were implemented, which offer potential opportunities for the industries to learn from each other.