The certainty of uncertainty

abstract-979604_1920 I was ready to move on after our discussion of VUCA last week—namely, the Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity of life in today’s globalized marketplace.

But two days after I posted “My name is VUCA,” disruption and disorder made their presence felt on an international scale in the tragic Orlando nightclub shooting—which warrants a further comment.

Just to bring you up to speed (in case you make the mistake of not memorizing these scintillating BLFR posts): VUCA is used in business to make sense of the unpredictability of events. The digital revolution that has overturned the music industry is an example I’ve used to illustrate the world of VUCA. Nearly every aspect of musical performance, recording, sales, and marketing has been destabilized in recent years by these forces of turbulent change.

But after Orlando, it’s clear that VUCA is everywhere—and we better get used to it.

As mentioned previously, we would be advised to stop pretending we really understand what’s going on around us—economically, socially, politically. We don’t. And when we provide—or accept—magic-bullet answers to maddeningly complex problems we’re demonstrating our lack of understanding of the world we now inhabit.

Unfortunately in times of VUCA we are especially attracted to the simple, certain, clear, unequivocal message of the “strong leader”—often the autocratic leader—who claims to not be a victim of uncertainty and complexity. But history is replete with examples of such leaders in the public square whose hubris wreaks havoc on their institutions and societies.

Fortunately, in the field of business—in the confines of one’s organization at least—we can create an environment in which we acknowledge: the uncertainty we swim in; the importance of taking action in the face of that uncertainty; the likelihood that many or most of our actions will be mistakes; and the need to own and highlight those mistakes. That way we can learn from our failures and make rapid adjustments.

In the world of VUCA what's the alternative?

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    1. Regarding "antifragility" (one of my dearest relatives), it's certainly possible that repeated exposure to VUCA makes you heartier—i.e. more adaptive. That Darwin fellow once said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

  1. What about "VUCA Prime" -- what some have called the antidote to VUCA? Vision, Understanding, Clarity, Agility.

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