I came across a new word this week, a new acronym to be precise (an abbreviation formed from the initial letters of several words and pronounced as a word). Say it with me, VUCA!

What does it stand for? Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity,  Ambiguity. I like the broad definition of what it implies: ‘it’s a crazy world!’

It turns out it’s a word that has been around since the late eighties. It is most often used to describe (and categorise) challenges in business and military arenas. But it seems to me it’s a fair description of the conditions and situations we all find ourselves in right now!

Think it through with me.

  • Volatility means there are unexpected happenings and perhaps for an unknown duration
  • Uncertainty means that changes are possible but not a given – they may or may not happen
  • Complexity means there are many different parts or elements which are interconnected and generate endless variables
  • Ambiguity means things are unclear – we face unknown unknowns!

Leaders may often use VUCA to identify challenges in only one or two areas but I reckon we each – as individuals and as communities/organisations –face them across the board.

I like learning new things when they have a practical use. It seems to be VUCA reminds me of the need for being aware (let’s recognise we are all facing big challenges) and for preparing ourselves for those challenges as best we can.

I liked a chap called Bill George’s take on what we need to respond to the VUCA challenges – we need to respond with VUCA solutions! (Bill is a senior fellow at Harvard Business School.) Italics are my own interpretation on his acronym, making it a practical exercise for each of us today.

  • Vision: picture the future you want to move towards
  • Understanding: proactively seek knowledge of yourself, others and the world around you – be curious
  • Courage: listen to the ‘bold you’
  • Adaptability: be flexible – cos change is here to stay!

Being aware we share a VUCA world is useful. Recognising we can move forward with VUCA solutions is empowering.

Is there one of the four solution areas that you want to reflect on particularly in the week ahead? Which of these is for you?

  • What do I want my future to look like? (vision)
  • How can I know myself/others better? (understanding)
  • What actions can I take? (courage)
  • Do I need to be more flexible in my thinking or my behaviour in a specific situation? (adaptability)

This is Mindful Monday on 12 October 2020.

There is a virtual mindfulness session on zoom on Monday 26 October
7-8.15 pm (UK time). To join, send an email to

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