2020 changed everything. It is an inflection point in history. There is no going back. Nor is there a new normal state to settle into. Change, accelerating change, is the new normal state.
How can we survive and thrive in a world marked by volatility, uncertainty, complicatedness, and ambiguity (“whitewater times”)?
Surviving and thriving in a VUCA world requires an organisation to be constantly adaptable = resilient + agile.
To survive and thrive we must cope and change.
In 2005, my fit active 70-year-old father sat down in a chair and died. My 30-year-old neighbour sat in his van to go to work and did the same thing.
After 16 years at the same corporate employer, I quit my job to make a living independently on this new thing, the internet.
I quickly realised that the big money was still in real world consulting so I spent the next 12 years at that, while still hunting for that elusive online income. I grew in my capabilities and shifted areas from time to time but it was a steady trajectory.
In 2013 my marriage failed and I was a solo parent. I spiralled into dangerous depression, but nothing at work changed until I came to a breaking point in 2016. I went onto medication, and suddenly life changed direction. All in one year, my son got his life going, my long lost daughter turned up, I met Cherry, and we started a new business, Teal Unicorn. For 2 years we forged a new direction, teaching business agility in Vietnam. Life was wonderful, literally the best years of my life. I was mapping the next 5 to 10 years: both of us consulting in two countries, steadily increasing Vietnam until we moved there for a couple of years, building Cherry’s side of the business before I get too old (she’s a bit younger), then we retire to NZ…
At the end of 2019, I got cancer and couldn’t do much work (luckily there wasn’t much Business Agility work around in NZ). Then COVID hit and we couldn’t go to Vietnam more. We pivoted to online training from home, which is slowly growing for us in a crowded market thanks to DrVu’s brilliance.
After a year of that, it occurs to us that we could do this from anywhere with a decent internet. So we bought a caravan.
See a trend? Pivoting after 16 years… 12… 4… 2… I have no doubt 2021 will be wildly different to 2020 for us. We are adapting constantly.
Incidentally, that caravan has become a mascot for our conversations about S&T, and we named it Mr Teal. Is that weird?
It’s a VUCA world
If you haven’t heard about VUCA yet, google it. We won’t subject you to yet another potted history. We slightly change the wording of VUCA = volatile, uncertain, complicated, and ambiguous. VUCA adds up to complex.
complexity is not a higher form of complicatedness
– Sonja Blignaut
In complex systems it is impossible to know the whole current system, the whole change that will happen, or the future state at any point in time, because it is VUCA.
For the last century of management (of government and industry), we used an approximation of the world that said it was simple and linear: a known input gives a known result. Even as we understood more about the complex nature of the world, the approximation worked so long as change was slow enough that the lag between input and output didn’t cause huge errors, and information was good enough that we could see something of what lies ahead.
The idea of simple predictable linear systems no longer works. “Define Once, Execute Perfectly” is a fallacy. The future is unknown. The only way to know is to do.
In 2020, at Teal Unicorn we did a lot of thinking and learning about how to cope with a crazy world. Many say this is the new normal: no normal. You may be doing great or you may be struggling, but one thing is clear: what got you here won’t get you there. How do we flex and writhe to survive and thrive? We have been learning. To survive and thrive in an increasingly VUCA world:
(Image Wayne Tarken)
With these practices, we don’t just survive, we can thrive.
We can surf the disruptive forces to find new opportunities that open up. Turbulence – even chaos – doesn’t have to be a bad thing if we are prepared for it, if our confidence is high, our systems are resilient, and our work is agile.
We can take higher ground in social evolution. We find better solutions for the outcomes for the workers and for the community. The world is moving through a second phase of enlightenment, to better ways of thinking, and we can be among the first going there, to be better and do better than other organisations. It’s not that we out-compete. We pull them up with us, and we become the natural hub of the network.
Join me inside Mr Teal, our caravan, as I explain S&T:
We blog about these ideas regularly.
We wrote a book about new ways of working and managing.
 This may be where we got the Surviving and Thriving phrase from originally centricconsulting.com/blog/surviving-and-thriving-…