Leading and Managing in a VUCA World


This short video by Reza Razavi and Simon Sagmeister looks at challenges of transformation, the rate of change, digital mindset and culture change.

What is VUCA?

VUCA is a term coined by the US military that has been adopted by the corporate sector to describe the current social, economic, political and environmental world context. It stands for:

Volatile – with unstable challenges
Uncertain – with unknown outcomes
Complex – with many interconnected parts
Ambiguous – with lack of clarity

The speed of change

The world is moving at an unprecedented rate of change. In a span of five minutes, all this happens:

Uber – 2278 rides; Spotify – 76 104 hours listened; Instagram – 134 000 hours watched; Amazon – $407 192 in sales; Tweets – 694 444; Snaps – 1.1 mio; Facebook – 586 000 status updates; Tinder – 1.9 mio swipes; Google – 4.8 mio searches; YouTube – 5.6 mio video views; Whatsapp – 41.86 mio messages; Emails – 300 mio mails sent.

Of the top 30 brands in the world today, 14 of them are platform based companies where buyers, sellers and third parties are connected. Who are these new players? Companies like Alibaba, Airbnb and Uber are amongst them.

The average life span of an S&P 500 Company has decrease from 67 years in the 1920’s to 15 years today. Only 11% of the Fortune 500 Companies from 1955 are still on the list today. Famous companies such as Braun, AEG, Chrysler, Blaupunkt to name a few have gone bankrupt or have been taken over.

Management guru, Peter Drucker once said, “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence. It is to act with yesterday’s logic.” While the founder of GE, Jack Welch mentioned, “If the rate of change outside exceeds the rate of change inside, the end is in sight…”

Skills needed to lead in a VUCA world

Professor Greg Bunch talks about  The Strategic Leader in a VUCA World  in his video as part of Chicago Booth Executive Education. He identifies some of the skills a strategic thinker and leader must have to manage and lead in a VUCA world.

  1. Leaders have to see all the parts and pieces – what works, what does not and what is valuable. In other words, they need the detail but they also need to understand the essence of the situation.
  2. Leaders have to be able to scan the horizon and look for the opportunities and threats and most importantly, the anomalies. The anomaly is the most important breakthrough and ability to see things differently to the rest.
  3. It’s the ability to get as close as they can to where the value is being created and to be able to ask the right questions, the questions that matter.
  4. It’s paying attention to what matters to the business and not being distracted from the goal.
  5. It’s the ability to communicate memorably and meaningfully.


We live in times where change is happening more rapidly than ever before. The decisions made on one end of the globe can affect the rest of the world as rapidly and as forcefully as we’ve not ever seen. The way in which we lead and manage our organisations must take a VUCA world into account in order to survive, thrive and grow.