You know things are getting serious when military acronyms enter the conversation.
Coined by the United States Army War College to describe the effects of the Cold War on the state of the world, VUCA stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.
More and more it is being used in the context of business, as we face up to the challenges of – amongst other things – the giddying pace of change represented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Now, as acronyms go, VUCA is not the most reassuring. You could say it’s alarmist – as if there’s nothing we can do except race around pointing out how volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous everything is.
But there’s plenty we can do! Here are my top tips to help you (apologies) bazooka that VUCA.
Embrace unlearning as much as learning
Learning can no longer be done in one concerted effort, every now and then. Online algorithms don’t sleep. Customers can scroll on by.
But as much as learning – learning with a ferocious hunger – you have to know what to unlearn. That can be hard. All that effort we’ve put in to get up to speed with this piece of software or that complicated protocol – surely it can’t have been for nothing?
Yes, it can. Especially at the pace the world is developing now. There’s a golden rule in the writing world: “Kill your darlings”. That applies here, too.
This means actively looking for opportunities to change rather than waiting until you have to change – by then, it may be too late.
Don’t underestimate this. It’s not something that should be ignored, however easy it would be to do just that.
The thing is, changing dynamically is tiring. Picture yourself walking down a street. Now picture yourself sticking your head in at every shop, peering in at every window, darting down every last little alley for a quick snoop. Many of those will, of course, be blind alleys. But one will the sneaky back route that nobody else has found yet – the back route that helps you avoid that enormous sinkhole that just opened up along the main road.
And there are more and more sinkholes.
Rediscover your agility
Agile. We’re at a difficult point with this term. The problem is that it has caught on. If left to our own devices, we humans go for the path of least resistance (most of the time). Being agile in business is a really difficult challenge that takes commitment, purposefulness and mental strength. So what happens is that we start looking at the vessel that holds all that difficulty – that vessel being the term ‘agile working’ – and we start paying lip service to it rather than really enacting it. We find ways to look agile – without being agile.
Put that spring back in your step.