Cat Stevens, famous songwriter, rock and folk artist, in one of his songs says, “… It’s a wild world, and it’s hard to get by on a smile, girl”. This he said in the early 70s and it couldn’t be truer, especially when you think of the world today.
So, how has the world changed? It has done so and in many ways. Both because of the pandemic and because of the advances made in technology we have willy-nilly been fast forwarded by a decade if not more. Poised as we are at the gates of a bright new world, what is it that students need to be aware of to successfully navigate in this “wild world”?
In 1987, VUCA was propounded by Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus. This leadership theory, though more than three decades old, is more relevant today than ever before. What is it about? The first alphabets of this term stand for and forms the managerial acronym
- Volatility – nature & dynamics of change
- Uncertainty – Lack of predictability, deal with it
- Complexity – Multiple forces
- Ambiguity – haziness of reality, understanding grey areas
Let’s look at each of these separately.
Volatility: Please let’s look at the Sensex. Nobodies complaining and its great but why? And then try to remember the year 1990 when the stock market just crashed, and how! It felt as though there was an enormous hole at the bottom of the stock market bucket and nothing, nothing on earth, could stop the draining out of resources. Closer in time and known to all, think of the stockpiling that was resorted to by customers immediately after the lockdown. It was everybody for himself and not a care for others. This, of course, lead to “expected” shortages of goods in the market. But what is important is that volatility and the understanding of this phenomenon can be understood and predicted. Preparedness, which requires analysis and planning for the future, will certainly be expensive but it’ll empower people to ride the storm
Uncertainty: Developments and changes in the business world cannot be prophesised but these are a certainty. Dealing with these changes requires mental resilience and a heightened awareness of the business environment. The importance of knowledge, an awareness, and, very importantly, its careful analysis, allows successful navigation through uncertain times. Think of what happened to Maggi; one day they were the most popular snack in the market, and then, overnight, the complete ban. Think Corona, when totally unexpectedly, at 8 P.M. one night, the Nation was informed of a total lockdown. Schools and colleges shut, but students adapted to online classes, didn’t they? Think of the launch of fairness and BB creams, & these became a “must have” product as never before.
Complexity: Today, because of technology you can work from anywhere, with anyone from anywhere in the world. The world is truly your oyster. It’s wonderful because of the opportunities that this provides but, at the same time, working becomes extremely complicated. Regulations, laws, procedures, even the way people behave in a business environment, will vary from area to area. The nearest analogy, to understand this situation, is to imagine what it is like to drive a chariot being pulled by a hundred different horses. Certainly, this feat would require dexterity, agility and the ability to adapt and restructure. Without these skills & abilities you would flounder and fall.
Ambiguity: To deal with unknown unknowns, a term often & commonly used, is what ambiguity is all about. Think computers, smart phones, Zoom, Google Meet, Whatsapp, messaging, the list is endless. These have today become an intrinsic part of everyone’s life to such an extent, that it has removed barriers, shortened virtual distances and promoted greater informality. What was right yesterday is not so today. So, the earlier black and white world or “dos and don’ts” has rapidly changed to one where there are large patches of grey and “perhaps and maybe” are the key words. But this is great, since it allows you to look at new markets, new products, experiment with new approaches, perhaps even a total restructuring in order to achieve greater effectiveness. So, what’s to worry?
Since change is the only certainty, it is best that one be prepared to face the wild & crazy world of VUCA. The skills needed? No, these cannot be taught but can be developed by each and every one. People have already done so and will continue to do so if mankind is to survive. The ability & agility to adapt, evolve in order to face the challenges of life is there, perhaps nascent, in us all. So like Freddie Mercury of the rock band Queen said, “We Are the Champions”, indeed.Written By:
Prof. Brita Singh Faculty – Business Communication ISB&M, Kolkata