Present vs. Future: Assessing a VUCA and BANI World
As a parent, we record all the milestones and accomplishments of our children. While birthdays were lots of fun, it was preparing for back to school that I witnessed real growth. When starting kindergarten, my children faced a VUCA world, and I had to help prepare them. But wait a minute, what is VUCA?
VUCA means the following:
V = Volatility
One day my children were just babies, the next, they were heading off to school! The speed of change was brutal for me to manage, especially when they didn’t want to get up in the morning.
U = Uncertainty
Fast forward some years later, and the transition from grade school into college has ushered in a lot of uncertainty. Today, I am actually participating in freshman college move-in day for my son. Two weeks ago, it was my daughter's first day as a freshman in college. Two different schools, two different locations, and I have one more at home in high school! We are all learning new things and having some tough conversations. I don't like it when I don't know the answer and for most of their questions - I do not know how to respond because there are so many unknowns. Patience is not my strength but it is pretty amazing when they discover things on their own.
C = Complexity
Add in dating, money management, and driving into the mix. Phew! New jobs, a pandemic, and, well you get the idea, my life is complex!
A = Ambiguity
Next, add in the standard questions all seniors/college freshman are asked:
- What do you want to do when you grow up?
- What do you like to do?
- Have you considered a major?
My children hear one thing, and I think another. We have had some good laughs but for now they have no clue what they want to do when they graduate. That is so far in the future to them and when they think they found something they may want to pursue, it often turns out to not be what they thought it would be.
As my children have grown into young adults, I have tried to impart my knowledge and what I have learned (in other words, my mistakes) to help them navigate their options.
Here are a few words-of-wisdom I’ve shared over time:
- Accept change.
- Ask questions.
- Set goals.
- Reward yourself when you accomplish goals.
- Have patience but persevere.
- Believe in yourself.
- Have gratitude.
- Value everyone’s gifts.
- Talk to someone – don’t hold it in.
These are all tactics used to help manage VUCA, but truthfully it never seemed to be enough.
I recently read, however, that VUCA is considered an old concept. You see, it’s been around since the late 1980s and early 1990s. This made me feel so old! While VUCA is still often used in strategic planning, leadership development, and the military to help us navigate our crazy, complex world, our world is very different today.
So, maybe VUCA is probably outdated. What do you think? Could VUCA account for what we are experiencing right now in our world? We’re working in our office one day, teaching in a classroom, seeing patients in our clinics. The next day we’re mandated to wear gloves, masks and stay home. So, how do we describe the times we are currently living in instead?
Jamais Cascio presented his views at the Institute of The Future (IFTF) on why the VUCA framework is no longer applicable. He claims that it doesn’t help us prepare for what will happen because VUCA only describes our current state. The alternative, Cascio proposed, to help us prepare for the future is BANI, another acronym. (As you know, in healthcare and academia, we love our acronyms!)
Let's take a look at what BANI means:
Something, or someone who, is easy to shattered, subjected to a total and sudden failure.
We fear the choices we make as it might be the wrong one. We worry about the "What if?" and are very indecisve.
There is a disconnection between cause and effect. The consequences of our actions are out of proportion to the event, or our perceptions are misaligned.
Something complicated, if not impossible, to understand. We cannot wrap our brains around it.
I started to ask myself questions about how to handle a BANI world. How do I help my twins as they head to college? What about my high schooler who is going through lots of changes? Here are some great suggestions I recently found by Diego Agostini in my quest for knowledge:
- It’s good to have a plan B and plan C! Be prepared; we can’t be in control all of the time.
- Ask yourself what is making you anxious, and then learn as much as you can about it. Raising awareness is the first thing you need to do when preparing for change or reducing your anxiety.
- Look at things with a fresh eye. Be open to possibilities. Try not to limit things by setting expectations. If you do set expectations, determine a realistic range and follow your intuition.
Another person who also has given me some great encouragement and perspectives in life is Dr. Seuss. One of the most popular gifts a student gets when graduating is the book "Oh, the places you'll go!" Dr. Seuss reminds us that things in life will get tough, and they do, but we can get through it.
So, to my children, family, friends, colleagues, and the 3C network, we will get through this VUCA/BANI world. In the ever-changing role we play in life, we must remember change is not a judgment of the past but an opportunity to discover and learn.
And, when you think about it, don’t we all play a part in what happens in the future? So, in that case, maybe we can move mountains, as Dr. Seuss predicts, with 98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed in our BANI world!
Connect, Communicate, and Collaborate. Let's move some mountains! That is the 3C way!
Agostini, D (2020). From VUCA to BANI: how to expect the unexpected. Commitment. https://commitment.uk.com/news/from-vuca-to-bani-how-to-expect-the-unexpected-commitment/
Roush, W. (5/12/2020). 4.01 Brittle, Anxious, Nonlinear, Incomprehensible: How One Futurist Frames the Pandemic. Soonish Podcast, Season 4. https://www.soonishpodcast.org/401-bani
Seuss, T. (1990). Oh, the Places You'll Go! Random House Books. https://www.amazon.com/Oh-Places-Youll-Dr-Seuss/
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