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Managing in a VUCA World

The U.S. military used the acronym VUCA -- Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous -- to describe extremely adverse conditions. Now, VUCA is used to describe the world of business. Bill George reports in Forbes that business leaders "must deal with growing uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity in their decision-making environments."

In an interview published by Psychology Today, David Smith says that those best suited for success in a VUCA environment have the following behaviors.

  • Flexibility – Willingness to try new things;
  • Speed – Rapidly grasping new ideas;
  • Experimenting – Testing out new ideas;
  • Performance Risk Taking – Taking on challenges;
  • Interpersonal Risk Taking – Asking others for help;
  • Collaborating – Leveraging the skills of others;
  • Information Gathering – Increasing your knowledge;
  • Feedback Seeking – Asking for feedback; and
  • Reflecting – Taking time to reflect on your effectiveness. 

Nathan Bennett and G. James Lemoine in HBR explain that "VUCA conflates four distinct types of challenges that demand four distinct types of responses." They prepared the guide below to identify, get ready for, and respond to events in each of the four VUCA categories.


  • What does VUCA mean for you?
  • Read the attached article. What is the difference between strategic planning and strategic thinking?
  • How can you become a strategic thinker?
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