Monday, October 29, 2012

Facing our challenges: VUCA and VUCA revamped

The European HRTech conference was held last week in Amsterdam.  I didn’t attend but my interest was tweaked by twitter feeds about VUCA. 

VUCA is a nicely packed acronym which describes the opposite of being contained and controlled.  Another military derived concept now used in leadership and organisational circles, it was originally used to describe extreme battlefield conditions.  It stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.

And its popularity as a term is growing.

Increasingly it is used by leaders to explain the nature of the environment they are operating in. Such leaders are looking to organisational experts like Impact International to help build their capacity to navigate through their VUCA landscape.

One perspective is that there is another word for VUCA, and that is... normal.   These 4 areas may manifest themselves differently depending on the context, but for many, the acronym captures life as it is, as it always will be, for all of us.  Saatchi& Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts, who likes to keep us on our toes, believes we are in a super-VUCA world.  But I am pretty sure he doesn’t mean super-normal.  Indeed, in my opinion, the danger of seeing VUCA as normal, fails to acknowledge the speed at which change is happening and what is at stake for our communities, companies and planet.   

So without dismissing the rigour of the concept, I felt compelled to play with the acronym through a different lens. Drawing on positive psychology, sustainability and mother nature wisdom, I offer another set of words, another perspective.  Namely, that a VUCA world is:

  • Vibrant – everything is a source of life
  • Universal –   there are universal truths, laws of nature, patterns and symmetry amongst it all
  • Connected – everything is interconnected
  • Agile – we are all in constant change

And to respond to such conditions, we need leaders and we need ourselves to be:

  • Visionary – to dream big and help others share those dreams
  • Understanding – to seek to understand oneself and others
  • Curious – to cultivate interest, ideas and connections
  • Aware – to be fully present, aware and attentive

Perhaps taking into consideration this revamped VUCA as well, will help remind us to take a more holistic, creative, courageous and sustainable view of the dynamic challenges we face.  


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