The Challenges of a VUCA World – Volatility
This post is part of a series on VUCA – The Challenges of a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous World.
VUCA is a practical code for awareness and readiness defining a set of conditions in which decisions are made. Volatility describes the nature, speed, volume, magnitude, and dynamics of change.
In the past month the UK has seen rapid and significant change. Not least to the financial markets. We’ve also witnessed daily challenges to the potential leadership of the country – first from those within the Leave campaign and then the Conservative Party, resulting in the unchallenged rise of Theresa May – and with the Labour party still facing their own leadership challenges. Aside from all that is of course the question of our standing in Europe and beyond, and what impact that will have.
We also face challenges in the workplace, whether they’re affected by Brexit or not. It may be as simple as a new project slightly outside your comfort zone or something as significant as a redundancy consultation.
Sometimes these events might be unexpected but at east they can be anticipated. Strategic planning can build flexibility into budgets, supply chains, or team capacity to cope with increasing demands. At other times though events can erupt seemingly out of nowhere and these can trigger a further collapse in the normal chain of communication or supply, which can create a volatile situation for everyone.
However, what may be seen as a threat can provide an unseen opportunity. It may result in the chance to streamline a part of the business that had grown out of control, the prospect of reaching out to a client base you weren’t expecting, or an excuse to try something that would otherwise have seemed too risky in the everyday running of the business.
What does it take to seize an opportunity when conditions appear volatile and threatening?
Does it take courage, foresight or experience? A willingness to risk?
“Navigating the threats and opportunities created by market volatility requires some skill and a good helping of emotional resolve” Brexit – An Opportunity As Well As A Threat – Financial Times
Resilience – which incorporates all of these qualities – has become a parenting buzzword. Raising a resilient child is the goal if you want to see them excel beyond academic success to navigate life’s challenges. However it’s also a good word for describing the strength of character that’s vital in the midst of a sudden and dramatic change because resiliency is the ability to rise above adversity. Picture a tree that’s able to bend in a storm, without either standing rigid or toppling over. Its roots run deep. It has weathered storms like this one before and it has the resources it can draw on when all hell is breaking loose around it.
Music and Muscles
Our work helps to strengthen those same qualities, before the storm hits. We work with your emotional strength as much as your corporate strength. In fact we see emotional resolve or intelligence as a trait that undergirds everything. Just as core muscle strength supports your frame whatever sporting discipline you excel at, professional musicians must develop emotional strength to consistently perform at the highest levels in a highly competitive industry.
And it’s not just musicians that have much to teach us about performing under pressure but music can also be restorative when our resilience has been stretched and strained. Listening to or learning to play an instrument ourselves – whatever our ability – can be a helpful retreat from the challenges of the workplace, as well as a means of recovery. Most of us can remember a time when a particular song or piece of music has significantly affected our mood for the better and studies show that music can reduce pain and anxiety too.
Whilst change is a constant source of threat to our established success, no-one can predict the outcome when conditions are volatile. Those that survive and adapt to changing conditions tend to be those that thrive whatever their circumstances.
In working with a huge range of businesses and musicians, we’ve found that music is a powerful metaphor for business, opening up emotions in a non-threatening. It facilitates open conversation, a willingness to listen and engage, and that inspires change. The good news is that we can not only strengthen our resilience to be able to weather difficult conditions but we can also learn how to see those conditions as an opportunity rather than a threat.