VUCA is a term that is being tossed around a lot these days. It stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity, and it sums up quite well the nature of life in 2017 Wherever we look today, we’re faced with VUCA. At work. Culturally. Politically. Our world is increasingly defined by VUCA.(If you want to dive deeper into VUCA, there are some great articles out there. One favorite of mine is in NewCoShift; and another in Forbes.)
How do you respond to VUCA? Understandably, most of us are not so well versed. When faced with this kind of volatile environment many of us might want to run out of the room or just pull the covers over our head. Yet, today’s world demands more of us – a lot more.
And it’s more important than ever that we all gain an understanding of how we respond to this turbulent state of reality and how to improve our ability to do so.
For most of us, living in a VUCA environment simply turns up our stress levels. Our coping mechanisms cannot gracefully withstand the pressure, so we react and we do what I refer to as “Going Reptile.” When we “Go Reptile” we act out of ancient evolutionarily developed “fight or flight” responses originating in our limbic, or reptilian, brain. These reactive responses are extremely important in a physically life threatening environment. But most of us don’t live in that kind of environment all the time; and most of the threats we feel are more perception than reality.
While these reptilian responses may have helped our ancestors to survive on the Savannahs, they can get us into a lot of trouble in our modern day work and personal lives. And these subtle and not so subtle reactions impact us and those around us, whether we see what is happening or not.
At first, this may seem like an insurmountable problem. How can we overcome our evolutionary wiring and not “act like lizards” when the going gets tough?
But a closer look reveals something else: an opportunity to begin to recognize what it is that we do – how we react – how we Go Reptile. By recognizing these reactions for exactly what they are, automatic biological responses, we might find new ways of working with them and responding more effectively.
This is especially important in our increasingly VUCA world, where we often feel out of control, stressed, and tend to “Go Reptile” in response to the perceived chaos around us. You may be surprised by some of the ways we Go Reptile, things that seem so normal we may not even notice that it’s happening.
What I see is that our capacity to navigate VUCA is in direct proportion to our capacity to navigate our inner landscape.
Over the next weeks, we’ll take a look at some of the ways we can react to the stress of a VUCA environment, the styles we use. Some styles will be more easily recognizable, others less so. Most styles are much easier to recognize in other people than ourselves. Yet, if we’re really willing to see, the payoff can be huge.
Stay tuned. . . .