22 September 2012

Wisdom for Success in a 21st Century VUCA World

21st Century World is characterized by VUCA of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity plus Deception (VUCAD). Successful living calls a new mindset. The world-view of the factors, causes and proposed solutions are shown in a Visual Model. But surprising the wisdom that you need is not new but originated 5000 year-ago in a book called i-Ching, meaning, the Bible for Change. Applying the wisdom will lead to you the objective of harmony and abundance of diversities of people, races, cultures, living things in nature and in the universe.

Alvin Toffler, "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn".

So what do we need to unlearn and relearn?

The Generations of Our Mindset
1. The Deterministic World of Clarity and Confidence
The mindset of the 19th century industry age is deterministic cause-effect, which is still the mindset of many people today, even those in the government, the engineering and scientific mindset... symptoms of the one best answer, cockiness, and in today world, presumptuous.

2. The Probabilistic World and Control Limits - Not so sure but predictable within limits
The mindset of the 20th century, thanks to quantum and statistical theories, is a probabilistic world with predictability. We understand variation, standard deviation, and we only jump when things are outside the control limits. E W Deming's A system of profound knowledge is a must read. It covers four areas of  an appreciation of systems, understanding of variation, theory of knowledge, and psychology.

3. The VUCA World - What shall we do in this seemingly mess?
The mindset of the 21st century, the hot term in this week seminars, is VUCA which stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. VUCA comes from the US Military awhile back but is new to the management gurus. Some military literature have it as VUCAD, with D standing of delay in the feedback of information from the confusing raw data. But I would like to change the D to represent Deception. In the VUCA world, delay is implied. However, in this modern world of spam, hoaxes, outright sabotaging, it is important to recognize intentional Deception and be not deceived.

The key is how do we live successfully in this VUCA world?

Do a google on VUCA and see the articles on how to, especially on leadership. Start with this HBR http://blogs.hbr.org/frontline-leadership/2010/11/leading-in-a-vuca-environment.html.
The are books that address this issue such as Strategic Speed: Mobilize People...Leaders Make the Future: Ten New... etc.

The Big Surprise
But the BIGGGGG SURPRISEEEEEEEEEEE, the leadership advices from the above articles and books are only a subset of the wisdom of I-CHING, the "Bible for Change". The unchanging principles of i-Ching is a good guide for us to live in this VUCA world. To read more about i-Ching, see http://mind-value.blogspot.sg/2012/05/making-i-ching-come-alive.html

The VUCAD World Visual Model:

What are the principles for doing well in the VUCAD world?

1. Universal Rules
You find the things that are unchanging or robust that always work no matter what the situation. You find such universal truths and principles in books such as the Bible and i-Ching.

2. The Patterns or Paths when Change follows
Change does not happen haphazardly but follow a patterns. i-Ching have contains 64 Hexagrams of Situations and for each Hexagram, a description of the situation and a judgment of good or bad, followed by 6 stages of change, each with a line of advice and the judgment of good or bad outcome.

3. Learning how to read the Situation:
3 Major factors in any situation, the Heaven(the Seasons), Earth(Terrain, market, industry, PRETEL), and People and 2 keys of your positioning(strengths, weaknesses, offerings, etc)  and timing relative to the 3 external factors.

It is often then we do not read a situation well. In which case, we are encouraged to probe, to conduct small experiments and survey to find out more, to validate our assumptions and intuition. Watchout for garbage in garbage out in planning. Planning based on wrong data or interpretation of data will lead to wrong actions. In the VUCA world, go for robust and lightweight agile alternatives for common people. Few people have the insights or intuition of Steve Jobs and so we go for alternatives with greater option, and place more bets, that make them definitely less effective than one concentrated effort. But we can go long and adjust as shown in next step.

4.  Apply, Monitor and Adapt
Keep the mission, vision and values intact while you adapt the 'how' first. You change the ways you behave or do first before you change your vision or mission. But never change your values based on the universal truths, else you loose your identity.

Hope you like it and please your advices.

Lim Liat (C) 22 Sep 2012
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