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It’s All Deja VUCA To Me!

By Dave Fisher

Dave Fisher“What? You don’t know what VUCA means?” My colleague was astonished that I was unfamiliar with this acronym. “It means Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. It describes the general conditions in the world today.” Apparently I’ve been living under a rock.

It’s All Deja VUCA To Me!That conversation got me thinking. Is the world really more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous that ever before? Really? What about the Great Depression in the 1930s that affected people and countries around the world? What about World War I or World War II? Talk about volatility and uncertainty—it doesn’t get much more volatile or uncertain than a world war.

So, what’s different now? Two things: technology and velocity. Both totally intertwined. Let’s set the Wayback Machine to 1965 and the Vietnam War. That so-called “Living Room War” is often cited as the first time television brought the horror of war into U.S. homes. We literally followed the day’s conflicts within hours of their occurrence.

Fast-forward 40+ years. Technology continues to accelerate the distribution of information. Not only do we get daily updates on the various skirmishes and conflicts around the world, we also witness cultural and political revolutions live, while they happen, on our PCs and even our phones. All of this information is coming at us at an ever-increasing rate which makes the simple act of keeping up a significant challenge.

In an attempt to keep up, we try to reduce information to digestible bits. Just enough information to fit the time available. In fact, this challenge is captured in another new acronym I recently learned (apparently I’m still living under that rock): tl;dr. “Too long; didn’t read.” This one made me cringe. What I actually heard was “I have too much information coming at me, too many issues to deal with, and too many decisions I need to make so I don’t have time to read your message.” That sounds like a recipe for disaster. Not only a recipe for disaster in terms of the decisions that will be made without sufficient data, but also in terms of the conflict that will inevitably follow those hastily-made decisions.

As business leaders, we’ll need to be vigilant to ensure we, and our team members, get and digest all the information needed to make effective business decisions. And we’ll need (and be ready to coach our team members) to establish trusting work relationships that can withstand the inevitable conflict that will come from today’s VUCA world. Because one thing is certain—the future will continue to be volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Guaranteed.

Dave Fisher is a leadership solutions manager at DDI.

Posted: 14 May, 2014,
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