Why I challenge VUCA and love the unknown

It’s time to stop being frightened.

I’m VUCA-ed out.

For some time now the VUCA concept — that we live in a Volatile, Uncertain, Chaotic and Ambiguous world — has been a bogeyman for business. It’s scary out there. Be afraid. Be very afraid. In fact, be paralysingly afraid.

Well I’ve moved on.

Perhaps not surprisingly VUCA was first coined by the US military, in fact the US Army War College who were looking for a way to describe life in a post-Cold War world.

But its recent application to the business environment, painting it as a strife torn battlefield, has become nothing but defeating and dispiriting high-pitched noise.

The volatile, uncertain, chaotic, ambiguous view of the world is a very western one, displaying a fear of the unknown and a refusal of impermanence. Change can only be for the worse. Uninformed decisions can only lead to disastrous consequences. In the unknown there is only terror, not potential.

Fear is no friend of business

I make no judgement on how or why it came about, but I have to ask myself if it’s still relevant today and does it accurately depict my worldview — and a vision the Leadership Trust holds to?



Yes we still live in volatile, uncertain, chaotic and ambiguous times, but do we actually believe every decision could blow up in our face, kill our business and make all our employees jobless? More to the point should that be how we feel? Is that really the way we want to lead our businesses?

Perhaps if you are (wrongly) carrying the whole weight of your enterprise on your own unaided shoulders that might be the case. But if you are truly working as a confident, challenging team, there is actually very little chance of you getting things wrong (unless you’ve unwisely selected clones of yourself, too afraid to tell you when you’re ‘just not getting it’).

Your teams will see you through

My view of the world is that it’s a place of flow and impermanence, where success is about being able to constantly adapt and change your mind, backed by a team that can shift direction with the nimbleness and unity of a glittering shoal of fish or a murmuration of starlings. Yes it’s pretty uplifting in my world! It’s certainly not about securing, controlling, or holding on so tight that you suffocate all creativity. It is about letting go and embracing the unknown.

At the Leadership Trust, we aren’t in denial that VUCA exists. We just don’t subscribe to the bankrupt mindset it engenders.

So let me give you a new acronym, one that more accurately depicts how great leadership learns to face the future and love the don’t know — through Vision, Understanding, Collaboration, Ambition..


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