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Expect the Unexpected

For the past few decades, we have viewed the world through the VUCA lens. Almost everyone knows the VUCA acronym, namely; Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. 

What does VUCA mean?

  • Volatility: minimal stability and predictability
  • Uncertainty: little ability to anticipate major changes 
  • Complexity: developing in ways experts have not seen 
  • Ambiguity: indecision in determining the best course of action

VUCA functioned as a useful orientation locus for agile and introspective approaches to trying to make sense of the world. The world has since changed. It became more complex, and phenomena like COVID meant that VUCA no longer adequately described our environment.

New thinking and new terminology were required. A ‘future-looking’ concept was introduced last year, namely; BANI (Brittle, Anxious, Nonlinear and Incomprehensible). 

What does BANI mean?

  • Brittle: quick to shatter, capable of total and sudden failure
  • Anxious: fear that there are no correct choices
  • Nonlinear: lack of clarity between perceived cause and effect
  • Incomprehensible: exceptionally difficult, if not impossible, to understand.

Most people I have spoken to initially put forward an overwhelmingly negative response to BANI. Words like negative, scary and pessimistic are frequently used. I do not agree.

I can see how BANI can initially appear to come across as gloom-ridden, appalling, and defeatist. But, given the current global environment, I think that the BANI notion is a useful, apt, and realistic lens through which to view our landscape.

BANI allows for a more accurate account of our current circumstances and, in a sense, paves the way to make the world a little more digestible. It also better equips us for inevitable and constant change. Furthermore, it highlights the glaring need for increased, and meaningful, collaboration, inclusion, and resilience. If necessity is the mother of invention, then BANI is the father of reciprocity.

BANI enlightens us that sometimes it is okay ‘not’ to know and that you can be better off expecting the unexpected.

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