In Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking Glass’ there is a sequence where Alice and the Queen begin to run. While this is happening, the most interesting thing is that the trees and the other things around them never change their places at all. However fast they run, they never seem to pass anything. To a very puzzled Alice, the Queen explains that ‘here you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!’

Today, we are living in a similar world where we need to be agile and run faster alongside this highly Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous world. What does this VUCA mean to us? How can we build resilience and literally run twice fast to reach somewhere we wanted to reach? What does it mean to the new challenging business environment?

The concept of VUCA started in the early 1980s by some management consultants and eventually spread to the American Army War College at a time the world started to witness a high unpredictability in the Socio-economical world order. The 2008 economic slowdown can be read as a butterfly effect of VUCA. The subprime mortgage crisis started in a few cities in the US and then spread to what eventually became a global recession.

The current outbreak of COVID-19 adds to the rather surreal situation where it feels like we are almost living in a science fiction fantasy world. The restrictions on travel and limited working hours have taken the very concept of communication to a new level and gave birth to new digital tribes like the Zoom tribe, Webex tribe, and Skype tribe, etc. Consequently, this cultural change poses different challenges to the ones who are not ready for this transition.

The volatile nature of technology creates new challenges for all global business models. The rise of digital movie platforms such as Amazon Prime and Netflix, has disrupted the theatre culture to a greater extent. While Artificial Intelligence (AI) drawn paintings are earning millions of dollars the traditional painters are facing uncertainty and struggling against their new competitor. The do-it-yourself (DIY) Youtube learning videos helps the viewers to cook Spanish Omelettes, Italian Lasagna, and Indian Chicken Vindaloo means that people can learn to cook for themselves without the need of a professional chef. One of the problems in a ‘post-truth’ world is that even truth is becoming a ‘Virtual Reality’ thanks to social media wars. Reality becomes cluttered and people are under a ‘Casino Effect’; unable to distinguish fake news from the information that is genuine.

In 1980 the American futurist writer Alvin Toffler developed a concept called the ‘Future Shock’, a phenomenon that argued that maximum changes can happen within the shortest time possible. This concept is now more realistic in this VUCA driven world. This poses many questions to the current HR leaders and management teams on finding new solutions and ideas in order to thrive in a VUCA world.

Recent management readings suggest that the SWOT Analysis developed by Albert Humphrey should consider including ‘VUCA’ as an additional element. VUCA should be considered as a parameter for identifying Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. We need to be agile and practice resilience in order to thrive in times that are increasingly becoming volatile, uncertain, chaotic, and ambiguous. Charles Darwin’s ideas of natural selection and the survival of the fittest need to be implanted into business models now. In a highly VUCA world, constant disruptions are the ‘new normal’. A firm has to undergo timely mutations in order to sustain its competitive position in the market. Providing new learning possibilities (reskilling revolution), embracing change as an opportunity to lead, creating a positive attitude are some of the ways to instill resilience in employees.

It is also relevant these times to have a look at the concept of being ‘Antifragile’ – things that gain from disorder, a concept developed by Lebanese-American Professor Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Antifragility makes you stronger and creative as a result of the disruptions and shocks. Being Antifragile will help you to be prepared to face the next challenge.

The new tagline for business should be ‘Agile, Innovate, Resilience’