12/14/2018

On complexity and other opportunities

9:30 p.m. in Shanghai. Seated around the conference table are managers of a multinational IT company, looking at me and each other with big eyes. "Oh, I know about VUCA challenges, alright," James is saying, “in sales, we struggle with them every day." "Oh, come on,” Sylvia butts in, “VUCA, VUCA, VUCA. Complexity and VUCA. That's all I ever hear these days. I'm just about tired of it."

And she's right, the subject has become shopworn in some circles. So why are we still discussing it? After all, VUCA is the normal state of things these days – everything is getting increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous. Nothing worth mentioning.

 

Tough choices

The good news is: It's up to you how you want to deal with the VUCA environment. If you decide to accept and acknowledge that the VUCA world isn't some abstract dystopia that may or may not creep into your business at some point in the distant future but in fact a reality, you've made a big step already. You’ll now be able to see VUCA as an opportunity; you’ll climb another rung on the evolutionary ladder of leadership. You’ll transform the VUCA environment into something you can shape.

 

Practicing VUCA alchemy

There, on the next higher rung, you have the chance to transform all four of those evil letters to your advantage. Volatility will turn into vision – allowing you to decide and act quickly. Uncertainty will turn into understanding – allowing you to keep an eye on the big picture and take responsibility for errors and bad decisions. Complexity will turn into clarity – allowing you to communicate clearly and break down hierarchies in your company. And ambiguity will turn into agility – allowing you to expand your network and rely on its power.

 

Ahead of Complexity

So, should you forget all about linear thinking and yesterday's success formulas? Certainly not. But if you really have a complex problem to solve you need to open up your mind. Open up your mind, change your perspective – and look for a new, holistic approaches to leadership and people development.

If you then muster the courage to take a closer look and see what kind of leadership approach – traditional or agile – is called for in each individual situation, you’ll rapidly develop from an administrator into a shaper. Rather than just react to developments, you’ll give meaning to the chaos of uncertainty and complexity. James and Sylvia did: they quickly realized that, as you change your mindset, the VUCA becomes the best of all worlds. The opportunities are out there – just reach for them.

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