For some time now the business pundits have been talking about the speed of change, its exponential nature and how we are all living in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world. ‘Unprecedented’ seems to be used more and more to describe everything from the weather to the threat of terrorism.
If this is true, then we have a challenge – us humans are hardwired to fear uncertainty! We do whatever we can to reduce it, as we crave certainty – often by accumulating data, by simplifying options, by shortcutting decisions. But ultimately being an effective leader in 2016 means somehow dealing with the fear of uncertainty.
So, what’s this year’s source of VUCA at a global level? The Euroasia Group (which, despite its name, is a globally focussed risk consultancy) published its 2016 report on January 4th, outlining their view of the Top Ten global risks for this year. At number one was the weakening trans-Atlantic alliance, number two was:
Closed Europe: In 2016, divisions in Europe will reach a critical point as a core conflict emerges between Open Europe and Closed Europe—and a combination of inequality, refugees, terrorism, and grassroots political pressures pose an unprecedented challenge to the principles on which the new Europe was founded. Europe’s open borders will face particular pressure. The risk of Brexit is underestimated. Europe’s economics will hold together in 2016, but its broader meaning and its social fabric will not. (Source: Eurasia Group 2016)
In Britain, the lead up to the EU referendum demonstrated our discomfort with uncertainty – how do you decide which way to vote without clear facts? Answer: you either a) make up the facts, b) go with who you trust, hoping they have more facts than you, or c) forget the facts and fall back on your own values!
Whatever the predicted global risks and now with Brexit a reality, being prepared to step into the unknown is likely to be an increasing leadership requirement in all organisations. A major challenge will be to resolve the current paradox of organisations claiming “It is OK to make mistakes as long as we learn from them” and the reality of the fear of assumed (or real!) censure from perceived weakness, uncertainty and failure.
Impact has developed a new approach to diagnostics by pioneering a situational tool to help us identify our personal response to finding ourselves in a VUCA environment. It indicates this on two scales: Independence Vs Interdependence (whether we tend to rely on our own ideas and judgement or seek out others’ views) and our propensity for Change Vs Certainty.
To find out more about Impact’s VUCAQ© you can contact Maggie Pearce.