Home Concepts Decison Making & Problem Solving Searching for Serenity in a VUCA-Plus World

Searching for Serenity in a VUCA-Plus World

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     For every complex problem there’s a solution that is simple, neat and wrong.  — H. L. Menchen

Where do we begin in providing a capsule but compelling description of the challenging mid-21st Century world in which we now live and work – and in which many of us provide professional coaching services? We can use words like “bewildering”, ‘incomprehensible,” or “chaotic”. These words describe how we feel, think, or see. We can also provide a label. We may declare that we live in a “postmodern world” or perhaps in a “post postmodern world.” I have written about (and soon will be preparing a book about) what I am calling an “ironic world.” These titles might be nice and tidy, but they don’t say much about what this world looks like or how we think about and feel about it.

In recent years, four words have often been offered and grouped together as a way to distill the challenges we now face. These four words are volatile (V), uncertain (C), complex (C) and ambiguous (A). As a consolidated group of challenges, they are identified as VUCA.  Recently, I have added two other characteristics: turbulence and contradiction. Pulling together these six aspects, I have identified the VUCA-Plus aspects of mid-21st Century life and work (Bergquist, 2020: Bergquist, Sandstrom and Mura, 2023). In this essay, I wish to broaden my consideration of each VUCA-Plus element—considering the polarities associated with each element. I also wish to introduce the opposite of VUCA-Plus. These are the aspects of stability (as opposed to volatility), certainty (vs. uncertainty, simplicity (vs. complexity), clarity (vs. ambiguity), calm (vs. turbulence) and consistency (vs. contradiction

Aspect of VUCA-Plus

At this point, I will dwell briefly on the meaning to be assigned to each of the VUCA-Plus terms and then suggest how we might expand on VUCA-Plus. Two of the original aspects of VUCA (Complexity and Volatility) have to do with environment (the number and nature of the elements found in a specific setting.  One of these aspects, Complexity, concerns the many elements in a specific setting as well as the dynamic interactions that exist among these elements. This setting is complex because we have to consider not only the number of elements (making the setting complicated) but also the interactions and interdependencies (making the setting complex) (Miller and Page, 2007). The second environmental aspect, Volatility, refers to the rate and shifting rate of change among the elements as they interact with one another.  It is all a bit confusing when everything is related to everything else—and everything is always changing.

The other two aspects of VUCA have to do with epistemology (the way in which knowledge is acquired and reality is defined). Ambiguity concerns the assessment of both the evidence available regarding reality and the meaning assigned to this reality. Reality can appear in quite “fuzzy” form. The fourth aspect, Uncertainty, is about the stability of any assessment being made regarding reality. Under conditions of uncertainty, reality seems to be changing in unexpected ways over a short period of time. Why should we do an extensive assessment, make plans or offer expert predictions if our world is hazy, swirling and always surprising us?

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