[CAREER NEWS] The one and only VUCA World

Jun 10, 2020

The first quarter of 2020 has plunged us into unchartered territory on an unprecedented scale… Every aspect of our lives - whether personal, family, professional, social etc. - has been suspended by political, legal and economic decisions, in part dictated by the current health crisis.

It seems that VUCA world has become the norm and is set to continue…

What is a VUCA environment? VUCA is the English acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. It is a military term from the 1990s, used to describe the four components faced by the US armed forces when it intervened in global issues.
The expression has become common parlance in recent years as a way of highlighting the main fea-tures of today’s world. Indeed, we can see these characteristics becoming more apparent in all our lives and in the day-to-day running of companies. Now more than ever, the challenge is to develop an ability to adapt to constantly changing, complex and unpredictable situations.

Let's take a closer look at the characteristics of each component of VUCA world:

Volatility refers to the impermanence of situations which can change at a rate of knots, in an unpre-dictable way and without complying to a particular standard or model.
The volume of changes and their rapid occurrence makes scenario forecasting exercises or strategic planning very difficult. Indeed, projects, priorities and strategies need to be constantly and rapidly read-justed according to the circumstances.
The ability of companies to offer a clear vision and common sense is essential. Managers need to listen to their staff and help them understand the bigger picture and how each of them fits into it.

Uncertainty relates to situations where results are unpredictable. Disruption can occur and impact, suddenly and unexpectedly, the environment or operating methods.
To manage the risk and the constantly changing reality, a great deal of flexibility and also agility is re-quired to swing into action. You need to be open-minded and allow room for creativity for solutions to complex problems to emerge. You also need to be daring to make decisions on the basis of incomplete, absent or even contradictory information. As a result, this means transforming your own relationship to risk and being more daring and more accepting in the event of failure. In other words, allowing yourself to fail by viewing failure as a learning process that brings you closer to success.
Indeed, notwithstanding the large volumes of disposable information, disruptive changes can often spearhead new paradigms ... The old solutions are no longer necessarily applicable to the problems of today or tomorrow ...

Complexity refers to the growing number of connections and interdependency between different ele-ments in a system, market, or sector of activity.
Being a fast learner combined with not just an ability, but also a desire to get out of your comfort zone and think outside the box are essential if you are going to quickly and effectively embrace new con-cepts.
To survive in disruptive environments and respond to the increasing and noticeable acceleration of change, it is essential to adopt a "growth mindset" and be constantly innovating, as well as putting your ideas into action to make projects happen.
This cognitive flexibility needs to be accompanied by an ability to accept and manage differences ... Success depends on an ability to negotiate, to implement influence strategies, to promote collective intelligence and to work with a wide range of stakeholders from different ecosystems.
Finally, to access new perspectives and bring teams together, developing emotional intelligence, adopt-ing an inclusive leadership posture and generating a positive energy should be on the “must-do” list.

Ambiguity characterises things which are likely to have several interpretations.
In an ambiguous context, decision-making is an act of courage. It asks to take responsibility and own any mistakes made. Ambiguity requires a good self-awareness and a good knowledge of self-operating modes. Be aware of your strengths, of the areas that need to be worked on and of the impact you have on others.
Since there is no guarantee that a strategy will work, take a carefully thought-out, intuitive approach.

What about VUCA world from a career point of view?

This context of uncertainty has a strong impact on the job market: the skills that have got you to this point are not the same as those that will help you progress in the future. The notion of competence is, in my opinion, too fixed and limited. Indeed, it is too often related to technical skills. More than ever, rather than technical skills, it’s the development of a range of essential soft skills that you will be ranked on and the results measured for job performance and therefore career development.

More specifically, what are the keys to success for career development in a VUCA environment?
Improve your self-awareness: identify your natural strengths and areas for improvement. Discover the different facets of your individual potential and explain how you are different from others.

Identify your values and your purpose: define the direction and priorities of your career. Set a course based on this direction and the positive impact this gives your life. Look for avenues and professional opportunities that align with this course.

Be resilient: first accept what is. Cope with adversity while staying on course, if that’s the right thing to do, or readjusting to new circumstances.

Increase flexibility: be open to change, anticipate it as much as you can, adapt to it, question yourself and, finally, allow yourself to fail.

Make continuous learning a priority: identify opportunities to improve your employability in any cir-cumstances.

In VUCA world, strategies are constantly changing, making it difficult to plan. Anticipating the conse-quences of certain decisions and analysing the innumerable, sometimes even contradictory, variables makes it possible to discover new opportunities and to explore new areas you might never have thought about before!
You can now see that everything changes, but what must not change is your determination to be a win-ner, to learn and reinvent yourself!


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