Using VUCA to Hold our Own in Today’s World

Posted by Amanda Furness

The acronym VUCA originated in the American military to describe the world as it currently is and to help prepare for challenges ahead.  In recent years it has been adopted in leadership circles and is used by organisations to plan for the continual uncertainty present in today’s world.

VUCA stands for:

V olatility
U ncertainty
C omplexity
A mbiguity

As the theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day on Monday 10th October, is “Dignity in Mental Health – Psychological & Mental Health First Aid for All” we thought it would be worthwhile to look at how VUCA can be used beneficially by individuals to help protect their mental health in the uncertain world 2016 presents.

The importance of enhancing our resilience is now well accepted in helping to improve our wellbeing and balance the pressures many of us experience in our work and personal lives.  By taking the VUCA acronym, and re-defining it to include strengths and skills we can develop in ourselves, the business model can be transformed into a practical, personal model.

Volatility is used to describe the rate of change and the speed with which decisions have to be made, as everyone today expects an instant response.  The best way to deal with volatility is to have a clear vision and focus of where you want to be.  Versatility and vibrancy will both help individuals to deal with volatility; versatility depicting adaptability and resourcefulness, whilst vibrancy will bring buoyancy and energy to any situation.

Uncertainty is probably one of the most commonly used words on our news channels today and something which surrounds us all.  If we are to be at ease in today’s society, we need to learn to be brave and comfortable with uncertainty and find a path through it.  Finding a way to accept uncertainty as a given in this world and not be discouraged or put off will help us deal with both volatility and uncertainty.  Accepting what we can control and what we can’t is the first step.

Complexity deters us from looking at things in black and white, there are usually many inter-connecting factors involved in making decisions.  The concept that there will be one ideal and long-lasting solution is outdated; thinking around situations and co-operating with others helps to move us forward.  Working on building our creativity and coherence  will help us to be imaginative and logical when it comes to steering ourselves through the complexities of our work and personal lives.

Ambiguity is increased by constant change and complications which can make it difficult for us to understand the effects and implications of events.  It helps to be accepting of the fact that we are unlikely to ever have enough information before making a decision and learn to think differently so that we can manage risk without it having a negative effect on our emotional bank balance.  Being alert and adventurous will help us to be psychologically flexible and to better handle ambiguity.

So below are a few strengths to build on as they may stand us in good stead when it comes to living in our VUCA world:

VUCA Strengths




The 2016 World Mental Health Day is on Monday 10th October, this year’s theme covers “Psychological First Aid”.