VUCA stands for “Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity”. The term was introduced by the U.S. Army War College in the early 1990’s to refer to the ever increasingly complicated world that emerged when the Cold War ended and globalization began.
Volatility: The world is changing rapidly in at least four major ways: type, speed, volume, and scale.
Uncertainty: As a result of all of the forgoing, our ability to predict, prepare, and plan is greatly diminished. Organizations which formerly blithely made 10-year forecasts hesitate to prepare 3 to 5-year capital investment plans.
Complexity: The world is ever more connected, the link between cause and effect ever more difficult to parse and options increase exponentially.
Ambiguity: The illusionary precision with which we formerly viewed the world has been swept away and while it may have been a mirage, it was comforting to many.
From the beginning of time, humankind has looked to the past as a guide to the future yet today the past is the worst possible guide to the future. We need to learn new ways of thinking; awareness that volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity is the new norm is the first step, acceptance is the next, for then we can begin to search for solutions and the mindsets that will guide us forward.
Changing our frames frees up our creative powers:
“I used to be scared of uncertainty; now I get a high out of it.” – Jensen Ackles
“The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.” – Erich Fromm
“I have devoted my life to uncertainty. Certainty is the death of wisdom, thought, creativity.” – Shekhar Kapur
Alvin Toffler in “Future Shock” said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” To that I would add those who can’t handle complexity, those who can’t understand how systems work and interact, those who can’t move their perspective from 50,000 ft to ground level and then back again as needed.
“To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness.” ― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness
“Fear is often our immediate response to uncertainty. There’s nothing wrong with experiencing fear. They key is not to get stuck in it.” – Gabrielle Bernstei
“Uncertainty will always be part of the taking charge process.” – Harold S. Geneen
“Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty.” – Jacob Bronowski
As always, I share what I most want and need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier