Rewriting our narrative for a VUCA world

Even before Covid-19 hit, we were talking a lot about how we lived in a VUCA world. One that was distinguished by Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. Put that concept on speed and ramp it up to unimaginable proportions and you’ve got the world we currently live in.

It may seem naïve to talk of taking back some control in these days where that’s precisely what most of us have lost, but I believe that’s what we need to do. Instead of thinking of our VUCA+ world as completely overwhelming, we can rewrite the narrative more positively to help us manage and adapt to the world we’re dealing with.

Here’s my suggestion: instead of Volatility, let’s think of Values; rather than Uncertainty, let’s focus on Understanding; let’s swap Complexity for Community and Ambiguous can become Authentic.

Find an anchor in your Values

That’s a lot more positive isn’t it? But of course, just changing the words isn’t enough. As you’ll have noticed, these are all related to ethos and attitudes. You could in fact imagine these framed on the wall as a set of company values. And that’s kind of the point. When you’re faced with the forces that combine to make VUCA, the best thing you can do is go right back to your values – the founding principles on which your company is based. If you don’t have a clearly-established set of values, now is as good a time as any to develop these. Values and purpose are an important anchor for any business and without them, companies can flounder when the going gets tough and that anchor isn’t there to stabilise and help them stay on track.

Understand the impact on your people

Understanding is critical right now and yet so difficult much of the time. The place to start is with your employees. Understanding what they’re dealing with while working from home, perhaps with a young family around and trying to juggle home-schooling and homeworking and housework and who knows what other anxieties and issues. Whatever reassurance you can offer regarding their job security will be gratefully received. Studies have repeatedly shown that anxiety over income and money worries are some of the biggest stressors for people, impacting their mental health and ability to function as productively as normal. Understanding the challenges being faced by suppliers, particularly smaller companies for whom every contract is critical, is also important. If you can be more flexible and supportive in your expectations, you could be the difference between survival and closure for companies in your supply chain.

Rethink the importance of community

If the Covid-19 situation has brought anything home, it’s the importance of community. In a world where we’ve gotten used to thinking in global terms, whether for our markets, supply chain or personal travel, the last few months have forced us to shrink the parameters of our thinking about the world each of us inhabits. Local and closer to home suddenly feels much safer and more manageable. Hopefully this will encourage businesses to look at the communities they inhabit – geographic and interest-based – and explore opportunities they might previously have discounted for the sake of a healthier margin. The phrase “we’re all in this together” has become a well-worn cliché in just three months, but it’s true. Let’s work together with the businesses and communities on our doorsteps and see how we can help each other and come out of this stronger and more resilient.

Stay real to maintain trust

Authentic is one of those words that seems over-used recently, to the extent that it is in danger of becoming hackneyed and meaningless. It’s simply about staying true to the values and purpose we talked about at the start however. Don’t make false claims or use the veil that crisis can offer to benefit your business at the expense of the truth. Trust is hard-won in business, but it can be maintained by remaining true and honest in your communications. Whether it’s with employees, customers or investors, truth is valued and valuable.

One final point I’d like to make is in relation to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Businesses around the globe are slowly getting to grips with their role in helping achieve these ‘global goals’. The pandemic puts a spotlight on the fact that we ARE all interconnected; what happens in one part of the world can impact significantly and drastically in other parts. By the same token, when the SDGs were developed some 5 years ago, they gave us a roadmap for reaching 2030 in a way that improves life and living for all – humans, animals, plants and our planet.

It is time for companies everywhere to take notice and embrace these goals. EVERYONE can make a difference, simply by caring and trying. If we don’t, the chances of a sustainable recovery are diminished. The ‘bigger picture’ can’t be overlooked in pursuit of individual progress – that’s just not an option any more.

If any business reading this wants to know more about how we can help you on your sustainability journey or in defining values and purpose, please get in touch.

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