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Why Adaptability Is Essential – VUCA is the New Normal

How will you learn to adapt in a new pandemic? It’s not COVID 19. It is a pandemic of continuous, disruptive change – and it’s already here. 

VUCA, an acronym first used in 1987, drawing on leadership theories by Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, appears to be an apt framework for describing the characteristics of that pandemic, for today and for the foreseeable future. VUCA talked to the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity of the world after the cold war. Today it describes our new normal.

The elements of this VUCA reality can be summarized as follows

  • Volatilitythe nature, dynamics, and speed of chang.
  • Uncertaintythe lack of predictability, and the prospects for surprise. 
  • Complexitythe multiplicity of forces, the confounding of issues, no cause-and-effect chain and confusion that surrounds organization.
  • Ambiguitythe haziness of reality, the potential for misreads, and multiple cause-and-effect explanations.

Leaders and organizations that develop high performing, balanced organizations and achieve a high level of aligned readiness (the AXIES GROUP definition of balance) will thrive. Those that don’t – won’t.    

How is your organization adapting in a world in which disruptive changes of all kinds will continue to affect every company of every size in every industry, extending beyond actual products and services. Methods of design, research, manufacturing, supply chain management, distribution, servicing and support, marketing, selling, customer interactions – and more – will continuously evolve at speeds, depths and paces ranging from radically revolutionary to modestly integrative. 

In that Darwinian scenario, the world will belong to the adaptive. Everyone else will become extinct and disappear. Of course, that could never happen. Right? 

We all know that newspapers and print magazines will always be the preferred source of news and information for most people. The Internet is just a passing fad. People want in-depth coverage presented with high journalistic standards, proper vetting, and objectivity. Propaganda, hyperbolic claims devoid of factual bases and conspiracy theories will never attract a large audience.

Hardly anyone wants to work from home. People will happily endure commuting time in exchange for the satisfaction of human interaction only achievable at the office. Besides that, we all know that creativity can only exist when everybody is in close physical contact with one another.

Online shopping will never replace the emotional needs of customers to shop in brick-and-mortar stores so they can physically interact with the items they want to buy.

Telemedicine will soon fade into oblivion.

Adaptations to the threats of climate change will not materially alter the emergence of new industries and new jobs while simultaneously making jobs that contribute to the destruction of life as we know it disappear.

The idea that people must become lifelong learners so as to learn the new skills needed to remain relevant in an ever-changing working environment will never gain traction – because it won’t become necessary.

Are you starting to form a picture in your mind yet?

What would it take for you to adopt the view that nothing is sacred? Nothing was meant to last forever. 

If you could adopt that mindset, how would your leadership change from what it is today? How would your culture change? How might your strategies change? What new Values might you need to embrace? Join us as we explore various elements of Adaptability that you must master to remain relevant in a new world that will continuously unfold. It will look, feel and act quite differently than what we have come to know as normal. Success in that world is within your grasp. But you must choose it, because remaining the same will become your path to extinction.    

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