Volatile Uncertain Complex Ambiguous

VUCA. Volatile. Uncertain. Complex. Ambiguous. VUCA.
For 30 years many researchers and leaders in the field of planning have used the term VUCA to describe the environments any planning should anticipate. VUCA stands for a future engagement context (or world) that is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous.
And remember, VUCA was a planning principle long BEFORE the current global pandemic!
What does LIFE in the COVID-19 era look like? Volatile? Uncertain? Complex? Ambiguous?
For most of us the last couple of years seems to have been VUCA on steroids, VUCA in overdrive, or hyperVUCA! It doesn’t matter whether we were ready for it or not. It came!
Life is like that. It just happens. And often life doesn’t seem to take into consideration what we had been hoping for or expecting. How do you plan for life in VUCA reality? Well, maybe you can’t plan for it, but what if you could prepare for it?
At the Saint Paul American School (SPAS) our goal is to prepare our students for success in life, not just success in university. Therefore, at SPAS we believe we will have failed if we prepare our students for success in a world that DOES NOT EXIST!
The world IS volatile, NOT stable or predictable.
The world IS uncertain, NOT certain. The world IS complex, NOT simple.
The world often presents information and situations that ARE ambiguous, much information and many situations are NOT clear and with only one way of being understood.
THIS is the world in which our students will have to contribute, even in university.
What quality is critical for success in THIS world, THIS reality?
Resilience: the ability to deal with setbacks, interruptions, shocks, change, even chaos without losing one’s emotional or psychological balance or life direction and momentum. Resilience.
What do we and our students need in “CoronaVUCA” times? Resilience!
The following five dimensions provide a framework to help us understand what constitutes resilience; purpose, persistence, authenticity, balance, and self-reliance.
How do we prepare students for a VUCA life?
In addition to the demands of responsibilities in courses, clubs, houses, and extra-curricular competitions, and other activities we provide opportunity for SPAS students to reflect on these dimensions during their homeroom time before first period every day.
Each student has a semester-long “Crew Log” with a planning and reflection page for each day as well as their student handbook. Over the course of the semester, students can spend about four weeks each exploring their own sense of purpose, persistence, authenticity, balance, and self-reliance by reflecting on prompts they can choose from each day.
I’ve joined the students in this daily reflection since school began and have had my own sense of purpose reinforced as I’ve considered the following questions, among others.
• What would you write a book about?
• What would you like your grandchildren to say about you?
• How do you know when you are being completely authentic? When did you last feel that way?
• What were you born to do?
• What kind of person do you want to be in five years?
These questions and others like them have given all of us a chance to explore what we find meaningful and why. This constant reminder of what each of us is choosing to be important helps us build resilience. The reason for this is when life knocks us down it helps us to rise to our feet if we knew why we were standing in the first place.
At SPAS we help each other, student and teacher alike, explore and develop our unique senses of purpose. We are all different and that is not just acceptable, that is expected and encouraged. At SPAS we explore together and develop together because we strive to make it a safe place for risk-taking to occur. We don’t seek perfection as much as we seek growth. We want to strive for greatness and if we fall short in failure, we fail forward and with the encouragement of others.
Resilience: the ability to deal with setbacks, interruptions, shocks, change, even chaos without losing one’s emotional or psychological balance or life direction and momentum.
Resilience begins with purpose but it doesn’t end there. In a later entry to this blog, we will present PERSISTENCE; the ability to keep on keeping on for as long as it takes.