Home Concepts Best Practices The VUCA-Plus Challenge of COVID-Related Expertise: Dancing on a Moving and Warped Plane

The VUCA-Plus Challenge of COVID-Related Expertise: Dancing on a Moving and Warped Plane

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All four of these subsystems are operating in our current time of pandemic invasion. There is rapid change occurring as the virus rapidly spreads and communities throughout the world are massively impacted. Cyclical change is to be found in the patterned way that COVID-19 enters and spreads in a community—and tragically in the probable way in which the virus will return seasonally (until such time as there is virtually global immunity). We can find stability and non- change in the resistance to new norms and rules in virtually all societies. All of this leads to the growing presence of the fourth subsystem: Chaos. This is to be found not only in the inconsistent way we are each living our lives in response to the virus, but also in the way public policies are being formulated and revised in many countries.

What about Contradiction? I identified the frequent presence of contradictory constructions and interpretations of reality in my 2019 essay and wrote about the differing meaning assigning to the reality that is being constructed (Bergquist, 2019). I suggest that these contradictions are even more prevalent now, with the heightened anxiety associated with the virus (Bergquist, 2021). We must make decisions that take into account contradictory and polarizing values regarding thoughtful consideration and caring compassion; furthermore, these decisions are subject to frequent review and modification as we try to navigate the perfect storm and prepare for present and future corona waves. Obviously, Turbulence and Contradiction are strongly influenced by and tightly interweave with all four of the VUCA challenges. In describing our current pandemic challenge, I will use the term VUCA-Plus with this expansion on the description of a VUCA environment.

The Landscapes of Puzzles, Problems, Dilemmas and Mysteries

VUCA plus issues—and issues associated with the COVID-19 virus in particular—pose a major, multi-tiered challenge for leaders and other decision-makers in contemporary organizations, communities, and societies. I specifically propose that there are four kinds of issues being addressed: puzzles, problems, dilemmas, and mysteries. Each of these COVID-19 related issues involves a different landscape and each, in its own way, yields contradictions that we must confront individually and collectively.


Puzzles are the everyday issues that we all must face. Puzzles have answers. They are uni-dimensional, in that they can be clearly defined and can readily be quantified or at least measured. Puzzles during the era of COVID-19 concern such things as how we schedule time at the supermarket to minimize contact with other shoppers or how do we obtain more protective masks. Puzzles also concern changes in our institutions to accommodate new COVID-19 laws— such as re-arranging an office floor plan or determining how many customers can enter our story at any one time. With a puzzle, the parameters are clear. The desired outcome of a puzzle-solution process can readily be identified and is often important to (and can be decided by) a relatively small number of people. It is the sort of issue rightly passed to the lowest level of responsibility where the necessary information is available.

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