VUCA, an acronym for “volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity,” means, in other words, “STUFF HAPPENS.” Drs. Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, originators of a business research discipline known as “Leadership Studies,” are generally credited with developing the concept. Joseph Mitchelli explicitly references their 1985 book Leaders – The Strategies for Taking Charge which outlines the model.
The US Army War College, however, is recognized as the first institution to broadly adopt the framework, in the 1990s, as a real-world mechanism for teaching its students that adaptability is a critical skill for leaders. The construct is increasingly analyzed in business contexts, and I found an Education Week article, only four weeks old as of today 5/23/2021, discussing its relevance to school district management.
I’m not going to get into the colorful contortions of VUCA. It’s fascinating stuff, but, and, I won’t do it justice. So why am I mentioning it? Because you can approach something so easily overwhelming from so many different mindsets: fearfully, conceitedly, playfully, creatively, adventurously, purposely. Is VUCA a threat or an opportunity? Devastating or empowering? Jim Friedman, one of the Playful Creative Summit speakers, offered up VUCA, and his interpretation of its weight, in his conversation with David Chislett, a Summit Founder. VUCA is WOW.