Win over Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity & Ambiguity

Fight the good fight!” I whatsapped Aakash. Insecurity and workplace pressure coupled with weight gain, health issues and an emotionally draining relationship were all exhausting him. Signs of the VUCA world, that’s increasingly used to describe the era we live in. VUCA — an acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.

The VUCA challenge

Volatility is high frequency ups and downs. You have a high paying job, but the next day it’s gone. The third day you have an interview and hope. They make an offer beyond your expectations, but it’s out of your city. You make plans to move, but they’ve changed theirs.

Uncertainty arises from data that contradicts or from no information at all. You’re told the company is shutting down and simultaneously hear that funds are being infused. Contradictory and ironic, yet relevant and factual.

Complexity is the interconnectivity of things. On a billiards table, you strike a ball that strikes others… and they, in turn, strike others. Some bounce off the cushion (sides of the table) and fall into pockets. All this is the effect of that one ball you struck. Ambiguity is information, instructions or facts that are unclear, incomplete and vaguely relevant; yet one is expected to act/ decide upon them.

VUCA leads to unpredictability – we can’t be sure of the outcome of an action or decision. VUCA abounds and is relentlessly battering us. Daunting, right?

But we can conquer VUCA and not just survive, but thrive. The answer is simple and with consistent and disciplined practice, can easily be implemented. Imagine a ship; the waves, corrosive salt, winds, currents... are battering it relentlessly. The ship sails as long as the ‘sea’ remains outside of it. It stays on course as long as it does not drift as per the changing currents or winds. Regular maintenance ensures the salt water and breeze won’t damage or corrode it. And despite it being built to withstand the most brutal of storms, it has life jackets and lifeboats stocked along with ration.

Win over Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity & Ambiguity

The VUCA solution

Ensure stability. Our happiness, motivation, drive and determination should be independent of our surroundings like bank balance, possessions, salary... Independent of others’ praise, rebuke, love, scorn... Decide your happiness level and maintain it. Someone praises you, insults you or ignores you–you are happy. Listen to feedback and act on it, if appropriate; but don’t be dependent or blown by it. Be dependent on your self-talk, self-appreciation and self-respect...

Ensure certainty. Be focused and clear as to where you are going. How you intend to get there. Why you are going there. Be open to listening and ‘course correct’, but do not whimsically change as per popular opinion and trends. Practise this in small ways by not making plans based on the weather, a friend, a strike or bandh. For instance, decide: “I’m going to office–whether it rains or not; I’m seeing that movie with or without you; I’m exercising no matter how late it’s going to be.” This way, we ensure certainty and eliminate ambiguity within.

Ensure simplicity. Eat simple and stay fit. Take the pain, monotony and challenge of exercising daily. The body ages, joints and muscles degenerate and ailments will come. All ships end up at the bottom of the sea or in a ship-breaking yard. But with regular maintenance, we can delay the ageing process. Learn new skills, work and play outside your comfort zone. This keeps mind and body tuned to changes and demands from the environment. Reduce the lifestyle trap. Do you really need that fancy car, big home, phone and party? Are you complicating your life? Declutter. Find joy in simple things. Play with the dog. Chat with a two-year-old. Admire the beauty of an ancient palace. Talk with grandma and glean her naughty secrets. Reduce complexity — live simply.

Spiritually, stay connected. Pray often. Seek solitude and tune in to your inner voice. The voice of reason and conscience. Slow down and even stop, look back to learn (not regret), move forward to explore like a child in an amusement park.

We can’t control VUCA, but we can ensure that we won’t allow it inside us. Insulate emotionally. Prepare physically. Stay focused mentally. And stay connected spiritually.

Conquering VUCA is also about letting the optimist in you make Plan A. But let the pessimist in you make Plan B – this way, you are ready for any and every eventuality. Just make Plan B and set it aside while you attack every task, project and life enthusiastically with Plan A. At the back of your head, be ready to create Plan C – the unborn plan. This is your mental preparation to a situation that you never imagined. If it happens, you will make Plan C. Live in the knowledge and confidence that if He delivers a situation, it will be best for you and He will give you the mind, body and heart to handle it. Like I whatsapped my friend Aakash, “Fight the good fight! Know that the battle is won or lost within. Conquer VUCA within you. God Bless! Keep Rockin’ and Roarin’!”

Dominic CostaBir, Director, Hospitality Training Institute, is a trainer and business coach

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