Why a VUCA business environment can be a positive thing
A lot has been written about the volatile and complex trading environment today but it’s only as difficult as we make it for ourselves. If we focus instead on collaboration over competition, we could make VUCA a positive thing.
We like an acronym in the business world. VUCA is one that has been doing the rounds, particularly in relation to the political uncertainty that has arisen in the UK around Brexit and its impact on business.
VUCA for those who may have not come across the term to date stands for:
I totally agree that the world is ‘VUCA,’ but hasn’t it always been? This is particularly challenging for those in HR roles as they can usually see the impact of this VUCA world, but are often powerless in enacting change.
HR has a fantastic opportunity to help organisations look in the right direction.
The above description of VUCA represents a lack of control, paralysis, helplessness and even fear.
I would like to assert that we need to be looking at an upgrade to what I am calling ‘VUCA 2.0’.
This is about more than semantics.
VUCA 2.0 consists of:
I am not saying for a second that we need to try and control anything - that is not the objective here and nor would that make any sense.
What IS the objective, however, is to help people get back their innate resilience, wellbeing and brilliance – all of which are knocked out of us at home, at school and at work.
How do we do that? Let me explain.
How often do you openly admit, ‘I don’t know?’
How many masks do you wear at work to conform or ‘fit in’ fit the prevailing culture versus adding to it?
When did you last intentionally speak with somebody that does not look or sound like you?
All of the above are examples of stepping into our vulnerability. Taking a courageous risk to ‘go first’ actually eradicates the volatility that many people have going on inside their head.
We cannot control volatility, but what we can do is show up more fully, be open to not knowing and get used to growing versus conforming.
My personal growth has sky-rocketed over the past three years as I have leaned into my vulnerability and started talking openly about my adolescent bullying, self-harming and the mental health challenge that I had three years ago when I burned out.
I finally stopped getting in my own way and getting stuck in my head.
Are you being vulnerable currently and if not, what opportunities are being missed?
The one thing that we can all be certain of is that we are all beautifully unique.
As Nilofer Merchant cites, “we all have our own unique onlyness, a space in the world that only we can see”.
Instead of fearing uncertainty, which is ultimately outside of ourselves, why not embrace your unique gifts and ‘onlyness’, which is very much internally derived?
What gifts, skills or knowledge do you have from your unique view of the world that you are not sharing or are too afraid to offer?
How inclusive are you when it comes to learning about other people’s gifts and how you may be able to collaborate with one another?
How curious are you about your own journey and that of those around you?
I assert that by starting with our own view of ourselves, we can navigate these perpetually uncertain times with presence, energy and impact which delivering improved outcomes for all.
Personally I have embraced my unique view of the world in recent years by being ok with being a white male who has fewer barriers than most, working in international sales and with a deep passion for the ‘rehumanising people’ agenda.
I now use this unique blend to try and serve others, instead of what I did for many years previously, where I was telling myself I was not good enough.
Complexity is a state of mind.
One of the most powerful ways to navigate complexity is to co-create alternative views of the future with others.
I always come back to one of my favourite quotes by Buckminster Fuller: "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes an existing model obsolete."
This is more than cross-functional working - this is about interdependent humanity.
The ability to crowdsource ideas, support, resources etc. has never been easier, so using that vulnerability and uniqueness that you possess, why not co-create alternative views of the future whether that’s at work, at home or in society?
I am involved with multiple examples of this such as the #HumansFirst movement, and developing and leading live conferences that create the safe space to experiment with co-creation.
What co-creation experiment could you run in your work organisation?
Ambiguity will not solve itself. To reduce the level of ambiguity we need to know who we are, own our self-worth and take proactive steps towards the vision of the future that we may lay out for ourselves.
This does not have to be done in isolation however, although that is also possible.
Finding your networks and communities that lift you up and welcome active participation is key, but we need to take action to find them.
In addition you may wish to develop yourself. What actions are you not taking today that you want to be and why?
Maybe your growth has stalled within your current role or you do not have development opportunities? In that case, could you create a new community or network yourself that helps light the fire within you?
Working from the inside-out
The common theme from all of the above is the need to move our mental models from the external fear-based view of the world where we feel that everything is out to get us, to an internally-out driven view of the world.
Looking from the inside-out means taking a view that is full of possibility, choice and purpose as we embrace the systemic shifts to collaboration over competition that are currently underway.
You are only one thought away from shifting from the fear-based VUCA 1.0 of individualism, to the freedom-based VUCA 2.0 based on collaboration, interdependence and connection.
Which VUCA world do you wish to live in?
I have worked in International Sales & Product Management for over 20 years, I am an active chartered member of the CIPD and have crafted a role to be a mix of sales, strategic HR, L&D and OD over the past 5 years.
I help catalyse improved, co-created outcomes in individuals and teams, based on a foundation of connection and...