No such thing as a VUCA World now

Business coach presenting at a business workshop.

“Leading in a VUCA world”

“Business agility now essential in a VUCA world”

“How VUCA is reshaping business?”

“Winning in a VUCA world”


These are just some of the seemingly endless headlines steering us towards yet another new normal.  This new normal being that the world is now, a VUCA world, and we better get onto it, ASAP!  If you have been sleeping and not really paying attention, VUCA is an acronym that stands for:  Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.  Yet another business buzz word thrown at us and confirmation that the world is now in a state never seen before and we had better get onto the new normal bus, like as in yesterday.


I completely understand your confusion and maybe even frustration.  Weren’t we still trying to pivot our businesses because of lockdown?  In fact, just a little before that we were still trying to disrupt as per the much-flaunted examples of Uber, AirBNB and many others.  Not that long ago we needed to be agile, innovative, change agents and now we’ve got this new VUCA thing taking over.


So, let’s take a deep breath and pause just for one minute.  VUCA already originated in 1987 through the leadership theories of Warren Bennis and Burt Nanis.  The US Army War College introduced it as a way of describing the era at the end of the Cold War.  The phrase then became an acronym and started gaining traction already in 2002 in military education.  Articles and reports including the Harvard Business Review, Forbes and many others have been using the phrase, and more frequently the acronym, for more than a decade already.  It predates COVID and is not new.  In fact, the very term is already 16 years old this year.


We are not now, in a VUCA world.  The world has always been, and will always be, a place of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.  Read the book Factfulness, by Hans Rosling, and you’ll find there are facts demonstrating the world is actually in the best place it’s ever been.  One could therefore quite realistically debate there may even be less VUCA at the moment.  Now that would be an interesting debate!


By thinking the world is now in a VUCA state, we get suckered into thinking it’s just a temporary phase.  It’ll pass.  If I can just get through this, it’ll be better.  You won’t.  The next phrase, acronym, buzzword, state, and anything else, will always be around the corner.


I do however feel your angst and completely understand your heightened stress levels.  So here are a few areas to help you make sense of your current reality and that within which you and your business operate.


  1. Adapt or die

This is simply a universal law as old as time itself.  Change will happen.  Not just now but forever.  Accept it and know that if you don’t change with it, you will die.  React and adapt quickly, or even better see it coming and adapt before it hits you.  First prize is then even to drive the change yourself before anyone has even seen it coming.


  1. Solve problems

As a business owner it’s your job to solve problems.  Period!  Just like with parenting of children, there will always be problems.  However, as your children grow up you earn the right to have bigger problems, albeit less frequently.  A business is no different.  As it grows and matures, you, as the business owner earns the right to have fewer but bigger problems.  If you’ve always got the same problems you’re not growing.  If you’ve got bigger problems, be thankful you’ve outgrown the smaller more frequent ones.


  1. The 6 R’s of survival (and sanity)

To guarantee your survival, and definitely to protect your sanity in the process, make sure you remember to:

Relax. Recharge. Reset. Realign. Refocus. Restart.

Then Rinse and Repeat.  Often.


  1. Limit your input

And by input I’m talking everything from traditional media, social media, news, gossip, misleading or negative conversations, ‘those’ family and friends (you know the ones I’m talking about).  It’s almost impossible to completely remove it from your life but you do have to intentionally limit it.  A lot of your anxiety, overwhelm and stress is reacting to the input.  For a lot of the input, you actually lack the full story.  A lot of the input is also not true.


  1. Perspective is your friend

Always catch yourself when you’re feeling, experiencing, or even talking about a one-sided truth.  Remember there are always 3 sides to the story.  My Truth, your Truth, and the Truth.  The reality is that the Truth is always somewhere in the middle.  Seek it out by actively searching for perspective.



The world is not in a VUCA state right now.  It has, and always will be, a place of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.  That’s what makes it exciting.  Don’t fight it.  Enjoy it.


Harry Welby-Cooke, ActionCOACH Country Partner and Executive Coach
impact.actioncoach.com | harrywelbycooke@actioncoach.com