The Challenges of a VUCA World – Uncertainty
VUCA is a practical code for a set of conditions in which decisions are made. Uncertainty describes the lack of predictability, the prospects for surprise, and the absence of awareness and understanding of issues and events.
‘Uncertainty’ is a word many of us are getting used to seeing daily in our headlines in the UK:
- Businesses Will Have To Live With Brexit Uncertainty – The Telegraph
- Brexit Uncertainty Hits UK Housing Market – RICS – CNBC
- Banks Expect Credit Demand To Fall As Post-Brexit Uncertainty Hits – FT
And the US Election season has been creating its own waves too:
“After months of contentious campaigning, Democrats and Republicans have settled on their presumptive presidential candidates. But that has done little to end the uncertainty that many small-business owners say is weighing on their operations” – WSJ
Whatever conditions we face, our challenge is to keep moving forward. Whilst success can leave us feeling too comfortable, failure can drive us into paralysis. When making decisions in uncertainty, the horizon is never clear and circumstances can feel overwhelming. This can cause us to put off decision-making until we stall. We may become forced to make a decision we’re not happy with or miss an opportunity that’s right in front of us. Particularly if we lack the confidence to live with the consequences of our decisions. But the reality is that, whatever the circumstances, there will always be a set of unknowns. All of us have to accept a degree of uncertainty, whether we have the data to predict market outlook or customer behaviour or not. However a willingness to step out and to take risks despite that uncertainty is a brave move. What marks out those who inspire us to do that is courage and the resolve to keep going despite the risks involved. How do we find that level of resolve?
Preparing for Uncertainty
Musicians are just as dependant on favourable conditions as business. So that whilst most Concert Halls are built to precise conditions, in order to amplify and capture the best sound possible, musicians are required to produce a world-class performance whatever conditions they face. But it takes hours of practice and preparation to enable a musician to perform to that standard day after day.
Those with resolve are usually those who are willing to pick themselves up again and again, despite the early starts or the potential for failure. They realise that the effort they put in is what will carry them through the challenges ahead of them.
Business has much to gain from music. Whether it’s building diverse teams or the expectation to perform under great pressure, a musician’s experience can provide a valuable metaphor for the workplace. Although industry may appear to have little connection with an orchestra, world class musicians can speak directly into the marketplace with surprising clarity. And that’s exactly what you need in the midst of uncertainty.
Making the Most of Uncertainty
Since its inception just less than a decade ago, AirBnB has become a $25.5billion business.
Brian Chesky, one of the AirBnB Founders shared some of his early anxieties in 2011. He explained that there was much that “we didn’t know” or that “wasn’t clear’ when they were first getting things started. He went on to say, “When you start a company, it’s more an art than a science because it’s totally unknown“.
Rather than being overwhelmed by uncertainty, it can become an environment where anything is possible.
Moving Forward in Uncertainty
Challenging conditions require a creative response. However most companies – as with most orchestras – can’t afford to improvise! But when conditions are uncertain, informed risk-taking may be the best option.
“Only someone who is well prepared has the opportunity to improvise” – Ingmar Bergman, Swedish Film Director
And when it comes to improvisation, artists who excel only do so because of the lengths they have taken to learn their craft. “Musicians can often anticipate notes and sounds, which allows them to take informed risks in the moment.”
Taking risks is an inevitable part of a growing business. We all try to manage those risks. We get the best people and the best advice possible. However when those resources are limited, there is a lot more at stake and it takes a deeper resolve to see things through the uncertain times. Sometimes remembering WHY we do what we do is the only certainty we have. And when it’s that which drives us, it can cause us to see things very differently.
Turning Chaos Into a Symphony
Through our world class leadership development programme, we can help you and your teams to find your way forward. Our expertise can help you to prepare for high performance despite the ever-changing conditions surrounding you.
This post is part of a Series on VUCA – The Challenges of a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous World.