In the late 1980’s the United States Army War College developed the acronym VUCA to describe the conditions that would exist at the end of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. VUCA stands for “volatile”, “uncertain”, “complex”, and “ambiguous”. In hindsight, that did accurately describe what the world was like when the Soviet Union fell in 1991. Since then, the business world has adopted the VUCA acronym to suggest the many challenges that business owners, executives, and managers face. For The Certior Group, because of rapidly changing conditions in the world – for example, in politics, economics, law, technology, social norms, etc. – we’ve adopted the notion that we all live in a VUCA world.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – Viktor E. Frank1
Some people don’t fully appreciate the profundity of Frankl’s statement. Much of what’s VUCA in our world is beyond our individual control. We don’t control large technology companies or how they gather data about all of us. We don’t control the way government operates. We can’t control the way politics unfolds, or how the natural environment might be changing, or how social media may be changing how we experience our lives. Yet, as Viktor Frankl suggested, we have a choice; we can at least choose our attitude.
Our firm has taken this idea of choosing one’s attitude and artificially divided the VUCA world into two attitudes: personal reactions that are “not Gratitude” or responses that are “Gratitude”. This is clearly an artificial, abstract “map”2 of the VUCA world that we live in, not the actual world of politics, Google, the internet, Facebook, Instagram, mobile devices, climate change, pollution, fake news, etc. But, as Viktor Frankl said, by choosing our way, we’re finding that following this “map”, leads to practicing Gratitude.
What does it mean to practice Gratitude? From our perspective, it means to respect, appreciate, and be generous in spirit with others and oneself. It is the ongoing practice of Gratitude that we’ve found to be one of the keys to thriving in a VUCA world. A growing body of research supports the idea that we can become more resilient, despite VUCA in our lives, when we become more grateful. How to practice Gratitude is the focus of our public events, workshops, and client work. Please join us in making Gratitude part of the antidote to a VUCA world.
(1) Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl, 2006.
(2) In 1932, Polish-American scientist and philosopher Alfred Korzybski published an article in which he stated that “the map is not the territory”, meaning that abstract concepts help us understand reality but should not be confused with reality.