It’s a VUCA world and we like it, because we choose to see the potential and possibility within a given context. A context we don’t necessarily would chose or particularly like but one we can’t change. One of Victor Frankl’s key teaching is the insight, that freedom lies in our choice how we respond to a certain given context. Like everything, a context is not a fixed thing but open to interpretation and a combination of an external situation and how we see it and respond to it.
What is VUCA?
The United States Army War College was one of the first organizations to use the VUCA acronym, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Military planners were worried about the radically different and unfamiliar international security environment that had emerged, so they used VUCA to describe it. VUCA in its original interpretation stands for:
- Volatility – change is rapid and unpredictable in its nature and extent.
- Uncertainty – the present is unclear and the future is uncertain .
- Complexity – many different, interconnected factors come into play, with the potential to cause chaos and confusion.
- Ambiguity – there is a lack of clarity or awareness about situations.
VUCA was adopted by the business world to describe a context that has become somewhat like a new normal. The Corona Pandemic has pushed this concept to the extreme up to a moment, that makes planning and prediction almost impossible.
VUCA can be rather disempowering – until we decide to look deeper and unlock the hidden potential and respond with boldness and joy
Let’s take it step by step.
1. If life gives us Volatility we develop Versatility
Volatility becomes a problem only if we insist on stability and the need to control what’s uncontrollable. I personally have stopped trying to plan income, projects, clients or the next month even. I am fully focused on the present moment and notice what each situation is asking of me and has to offer.
A volatile context holds new opportunities and possibilities and invites us to become more agile or versatile in a way. A key to unleashing the intrinsic energy of a versatile context are focus and presence. We are asked to be in resonance with the world around us, becoming more sensitive, connected in in-sync with what’s going on around us. We are in a constant training of using the many facets of our personality, all our talents and increase our bandwidth, flexibility and awareness. Our capacity to be with different contexts increases and the possibilities for creativity and innovation expand.
2. Being Unstoppable in the face of Uncertainty
One month after we agreed to purchase an Finca in South Spain in February 2020 Coronavirus hit in. The uncertainty was huge, we had no idea if we were going able to start the construction, travel or going to need our savings for our immediate survival . We had absolutely no idea what was going to happen. Many evenings we discussed if we should opt-out of the purchase agreement and pay the penalty fee. But we decided to move on with it however difficult it would be – and it was not easy. For example we needed a hire a local lawyer to help us with the purchasing process as we couldn’t travel and 2 years later the building process is still not finished. But we decided to not let the uncertainty stop us from doing what we had started. Today we are more than happy, in the meantime the rural real estate prices are rising and we would have missed a big opportunity to buy a beautiful place for a more than reasonable price. We also were lucky to land some large client assignments and money didn’t prove to be the problem. And thanks to the vaccine we are able to travel easily. All this was not foreseeable.
This is what I mean by “being unstoppable”. Too often we wait for the circumstances to be stable, safe and clear to take bold decisions. And we end up never doing it, because the circumstances are always impossible. Whatever you want to do, do it now.
3. Complexity calls for Cooperation and Collaboration
When many connected and interrelated factors come into play, we are asked to become playful, collaborative, diverse and networked. Chaos is the result of the attempt to “control” and “manage” complexity with linear and hierarchical thinking. We have to mirror the context in the way we organize ourselves and combine as many different world-views, skills, backgrounds and cultures as possible – and let them interplay.
Whenever we created such a work environment with our clients – interdisciplinary, diverse teams, connected by a shared purpose, goal and clear rules of the game, pure magic happened. Innovation, Creativity, Joy and business results increased. Complexity teaches us to collaborate for real.
4. Ambiguity leaves room for interpretation – lets get Audacious
Ambiguity means that a situation is not fully clear. It holds “the quality of being open to more than one interpretation; inexactness”. The business world and markets don’t like this at all, they want things to be clear. People have to form a clear opinion or final judgement whether a situation is favorable, dangerous, good, bad, white or black. But this is not at all how life is, and the quality of being open, Peter Senge talks about “suspension”, leaving it up to different possibilities or even closing the most favorable interpretation is a highly difficult practice.
How to respond to such an unclear context that leaves from for many interpretations? We think this is the room to get audacious: “showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks”. And ambitious. We can opt for the interpretation that leaves us disempowered, small, anxious or an interpretations that lets us grow, rise above and beyond and take risks.
We founded CCG – Conscious Consulting Group in April 2020 – a situation that was so opaque, so unclear and so incomprehensible that we said to ourselves: this is the best time to take a bold risk, we don’t have much to lose and a lot to gain. We invested money, time and attention based on a bold intention “to merge business and wisdom”. CCG itself is an ambiguous, yet ambitious project, it still is not 100% clear where it wants to go and grow and we like that. Ambiguity means, something is not yet clear and is still full of potential and possibility.
This is the invitation to move from VUCA – a fixed context – to vuca – a way of being and acting in the face of something that is potentially threatening until you look deeper and closer.