VUCA is not a Croatian hit man in a throwback, Guy Ritchie-style, East End gangster movie. She does not live on the second floor.
VUCA is an acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity. It’s not new. It came from post-Cold War thinking in the US Military and was popular a few years back in management thinking. It encapsulates many of the challenges I see as part of an accelerated world: rapid change and lack of clarity.
Advising people about VUCA may be a passed fad but its message resonates more strongly now than ever, both in its original geopolitical context, and in business. Our world seems incredibly volatile and uncertain, creating a fog ahead that might freeze many attempts at planning.
The only response is to create new behaviours that accommodate uncertainty.
Think about navigating in the dark — for me, often finding my way out of my kids’ bedrooms at night after switching off the lamps they have left on. I’m on the far side of the room from the door and I know the floor is strewn with toys. What happens? While my eyes readjust, touch becomes hyper-sensitive. The slightest toe-tap from a My Little Pony makes me shift my balance. I navigate with small steps until I reach the door.
This is how we operate in an a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. We enhance our senses for good information. We learn to react faster to feedback. And we experiment, feeling our way through the gloom.
An applied approach
Looked at in this context, applied futurism could be seen as a response to VUCA. Near-term foresight tools to help you feel your way. Narrative planning for rapid response development. An agile organisation framework to give you flexibility.
It’s not the only approach, nor the first. But with VUCA coming for you, you might want all the help you can get.