Things sure are f’ed up.
Everywhere you look, another crisis.
Everywhere you turn circumstances are “unprecedented.” And people are “unhinged.”
Washington, Wall Street, Ukraine, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Madison Avenue…Lambeau Field…TikTok…the local deli…your last Zoom call.
There’s a name for this craziness.
It’s called “VUCA.”
It stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.
It’s a concept the folks at the Army War College at Carlisle, PA brought forth in the early 2000’s to help leaders understand the milieu and mood of the world post 9/11.
VUCA brings a little order to the chaos.
So now you know what it is, what the heck can you do about it?
Let’s break it down by breaking it out.
This is the roller-coaster we all live on these days. And it’s a fast one. No sooner are we up when suddenly we are down. And back up again…and down.
Anti-VUCA move: Take a beat. That’s right, when you hear or read something volatile, try not to react immediately. Count to 5 if you must. The calmer you stay, the more you can hold your ground — no matter how shaky it is.
What’s going to happen in Ukraine? How do you deal with this inflation? How do you deal with your own inflammation? Is AI going to take your job? And if not, are you ever going to work in an office more than three days again?
Anti-VUCA move: So much is out of your control. Focus on what you can control.
The Silicon Valley Bank collapse and its after-shocks is not a simple “bank fail.” There are plenty of tentacles here that will tangle things up from T-Bills to NFTs to the price of tea in China.
And speaking of China…
How about the joy of TikTok being corrupted by the specter of Chinese espionage?
And why is scheduling a meeting on Zoom so hard…and why can’t I share my screen on Teams?!
Anti-VUCA move: Find allies in clarity and simplicity. Slow down to understand. Find people and ways that can help you sort stuff. This will require accepting your ignorance. (Yes, men, you will have to ask for directions. And you will actually have to listen to the directions offered on Google maps!)
Politics may be black and white (or Blue and Red for my US readers), but pretty much everything else these days is grey.
Are your investments panning out? The financial ones? The emotional ones? Unclear at the moment.
A “Yes” on a project is more often than not a “Maybe.”
Your boss toggles between micromanager-extraordinaire and “Gone Girl,” and is she ever going to text you back this week?
Anti-VUCA move: Fight “A” with “A.” In other words, fight ambiguity with agility. Something comes in one way, it goes another and you have to be agile enough to move in a new direction.
Agility is the best defense against fragility.
Welcome to the VUCA world.
The bad news is, it ain’t going anywhere anytime soon; and it’s probably going to get worse.
The good news? We’ve identified it here and you have the beginnings of a playbook to help you deal with it.
And maybe one day, thrive in it.
Rob Schwartz is the Chair of the TBWA New York Group and an executive coach who channels his creativity, experience and wisdom into helping others get where they want to be. This was originally posted on his Substack, RobSchwartzHelps, where he covers work, life, and creativity.
Photo courtesy author, created by Midjourney.