By Gregor HöllerIn Leadership14.07.2021

If you’ve ever dealt with agility, chances are high you stumbled upon the acronym VUCA.

VUCA stands for

  • Volatile
  • Uncertain
  • Complex and 
  • Ambiguous

and constitutes the basis for any agile and self-organized logic of thinking and action. At least that’s how things were until now…

 

VUCA in a chaotic present

VUCA helped, and is still helping, to classify the world and derive actions. And even if “agile” is in vogue right now, VUCA has developed long before digitization. If you think about it, the world has always been VUCA: in a certain sense volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. What recently changed, however, is that both frequency and the swings of our so-called VUCA world have increased. Nowadays, they’re much more present and noticeable than, say, 30 years ago.

 

Ist VUCA a thing of the past?

If the world always has been and always will be VUCA—is it simply even more VUCA nowadays? Yes, but we need to ask ourselves whether the VUCA interpretation framework still is useful to explain the world, or not. Experts answer this question with a clear no. The VUCA world has developed, fueled by the global COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis and political chaos in some parts of the world. The world isn’t just volatile and uncertain anymore, it has become chaotic. This is where BANI comes in.

 

BANI as a solution

As mentioned before, systems and people need an interpretation framework in order to categorize and explain things. If VUCA isn’t enough anymore, we need a new world order. In his article “Facing the Age of Chaos” Jamais Casico describes the so-called BANI framework as a possible solution.

 

What does BANI mean?

BANI stands for

  • Brittle
    The main difference between brittle and volatile is that brittle systems often seem stable—until the very moment in which they collapse. Contrary to volatility, where one state simply transitions into another state. Our energy grids or global trade are perfect examples of brittle systems. Also the current pandemic showcases the fragility of our systems. 
  • Anxious
    Anxiousness leads to helplessness and passiveness. In a world characterized by fear, we’re almost unable to make decisions as they potentially lead to terrible consequences. Especially those of us who live in the Western world haven’t had to live with fear for a long time now—so we lost it completely. The COVID pandemic and the dangers that come with it (think health, job security, etc.) drastically changed this now.

  • Non-linear
    In a non-linear world, cause and effect can’t be directly connected anymore and, therefore, seem out of proportion. The climate crisis is a textbook example: we’re currently seeing the effects of pollutant emissions of the 1980s. That’s a pretty large lapse of time between cause and effect. 
  • Incomprehensible
    We’re currently facing an increasing number of incomprehensible phenomena which we can’t explain, even if we collect all available information. Partly because there’s just too much data available and we’re simply overwhelmed. Sometimes systems don’t work for inexplicable reasons—just think of IT and programming. 

BANI offers the chance to see the world from a new, different perspective in order to escape the feeling of despair. We’re in a new phase, and it affects the entire globe. Systems in all areas are changing, and have to change, which requires new ways of thinking we need to explore right now.

 

Awareness and adaptable organizations

What does this mean for organizations? Well, it means that it’s becoming crucial to work in an agile way in order to prepare oneself for changing, uncertain, or even adverse circumstances, and to be able to react swiftly. These times of chaos are especially challenging for leaders and require them to deal with the necessary principles. This means, more than anything, that leaders have to start with themselves instead of resorting to an authoritarian approach. Cultivating awareness and a clear focus on decisions are necessary to master current challenges and face times of change. Translated to real life, this means respecting individual differences and supporting people in their different network structures. Only with awareness and empathy, we’ll be able to find ways out of the crisis.