Navigation Skills for Thriving in “VUCA” Times

Volatility, Uncertainty,
Complexity, and Ambiguity

As tsunamis of complex change flood through our lives, organizations, and communities, the need to develop greater wisdom, resilience, compassion, and creativity at every level becomes ever more clear.

We live in what military leaders describe as, “VUCA times.”  In many modern disciplines of organizational transformation, community building, and military science, the acronym VUCA is growing in relevance and usage, and invites us to reflect more deeply on the Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity of the circumstances of our lives and world. We have also learned that in the Zulu language, the word vuca means “to wake up”  – a practice crucial for these times and essential for learning, wisdom, compassion, and creative adaptation.

This VUCA meme invites us all to reflect and ask ourselves, “How we can develop our capacity to respond in adaptive, rather than maladaptive, ways to the circumstances of our lives?  How can we develop as resilient communities, alliances, and organizations prepared to work effectively with the VUCA trends of our times?”

It is becoming increasingly clear that to thrive amidst these challenging circumstances requires developing our capacity to flip or transform the ordinary VUCA elements into the extra-ordinary elements of Vision, Understanding, Clarity, and Adaptability that can help us navigate through powerful currents of global change.

While VUCA trends are likely to grow over time, affecting billions of people in virtually every community and organization of our world, there is an awakening community of people and groups around the globe who are seeking to develop the conditions in which the adaptive qualities of VUCA will flourish. Adaptive responses to a VUCA environment include: gaining insight, a sense of perspective, and an expanded range of options for how to embrace, respond instead of react, relate, connect, and transform challenging situations. These capacities are essential to enduring success in all sustainability initiatives for us as individuals, organizations, and communities.

As human and natural systems that we have come to depend upon continue to become increasingly more unreliable and unsustainable, we are compelled to learn to thrive, and not just survive.  This new learning engages our disciplines of attention, deep intuitive wisdom, skillful means, and potential for generative alliances and creative collaboration.  Through the myriad of changes to come, developing these extra-ordinary capacities will be key for continually reinventing our lives, redesigning our work, and optimizing our success as individuals, families, communities, and organizations.

In our work with a diverse array of leaders from hundreds of innovative organizations around the globe, the themes of “change resilience,” “whole systems thinking,” “personal and organizational sustainability,” “expanding personal capacity,”  “mind-fitness,” “courage,” “compassion,” and “presence” are increasingly calling for priority attention.

Wisdom at Work’s Navigation Skills for VUCA Times develop the capacity of leaders and organizations to respond wisely to our VUCA times and world.  The results can be measured across both inner (personal) and outer (organizational) spheres of influence.

At an organizational level, VUCA-savvy leaders are more aware, adaptive, courageous, confident and empowered by VUCA forces at work, and are better equipped to deal effectively with:

  • The business of making sense of their data stream and knowledge management.
  • Anticipating and planning for the future.
  • Managing critical processes and resources.
  • Increasing functional responsiveness and modeling.
  • Informing learning loops and process improvements at every level of influence.
  • Creating healthy, thriving organizational cultures and inspiring people with the knowledge and skills necessary to optimize the flow of their personal attention and energy at work.

At a personal level, VUCA-savvy leaders have greater capacity to:

  • Be fully present, mindful, and attentive to the stream of information that flows to them and through them.
  • Be more discerning and realistic regarding attributing meaning to circumstances, and better able to recognize both opportunities and dangers that are present or likely to emerge.
  • Clearly perceive a greater range of interpretations and options for action.
  • Be better able to maintain their clarity and balance in the midst of highly turbulent circumstances, and thus be more resilient and adaptable in responding to emerging realities.
  • Inspire others to do all of the above through their personal example.

The elements of VUCA mindset define the context in which leaders and their organizations view their current reality and likely future state.   Depending on one’s mindset, VUCA elements can either confound decision-making and responsiveness or they can sharpen the capacity to view currently reality with greater clarity and realism, see meaningful interdependencies, skillfully respond to current realities, while anticipating consequences, and wisely planning for future courses of action.

Wisdom at Work’s Navigation Skills for VUCA Times offers essential learning and inspiration for people aspiring to function skillfully, manage wisely, respond compassionately, and lead resiliently in these turbulent times.

See overview of VUCA related programs we have offered that is posted here.

Read the Leveys’ new article- Thriving in Complex Times: A Guide for the VUCA Savvy Leader – published by the American Management Association’s MWorld Summer 2013 VUCA Savvy Leader MWorld Sum 2013 Levey