VUCA: Complexity – Thriving in increasing multiplicity. 

The term VUCA have been heard in many places. There are numerous books on the topic. The question is; how does this acronym affect my life? Better yet, what does this mean to me in my daily life? These are good questions to ask. With the current reality of COVID-19 the world has recognized once more that VUCA is a true reality for us all.

VUCA is an acronym, each letter explaining one element of the world we live in.

V – Volatility signifies the high levels of fragility in some elements of life.

U – Uncertainty conveys the unpredictable elements of life.

C – Complexity explains the entanglement of different elements. Many of these elements are often unknown to each other and yet it influences each other.

A – Ambiguity is often referred to the fake news around us. It is often protected by vagueness and obscurity.

The dialogue around VUCA should not make us fearful, it should awaken us to the reality of life and inspire us to cross over to live resiliently within it. The combination of meaning of VUKA in Zulu and Swahili explains this brilliantly. When a Zulu would use this word, the meaning that they convey is one of intense awakening. They are figuratively telling the listener to wake up from their sleep and see what is actually going on. It also means to rise to the occasion. One thing we are definitely forced to do in the COVID-19 scenario. When a Swahili person says VUKA he/she is encouraging the listener to cross-over. It invites us not to stay where we are but to move on to the new.

VUCA is an acronym which should not only be studied in its separate parts. The connection between the different elements needs careful consideration. For example, the Volatile scenario of COVID-19 influences and increases the elements of uncertainty and complexity. It even has an element of ambiguity within it.

During this blog series we take an in-depth look at each element of the VUCA acronym. This week we look at Complexity.


Complexity is the result of breakthrough research and the connections between previously unknown elements. Just think about the amount of data we have gathered in the last 10 years. As new information is gathered, the field of study spontaneously increase in its complexity. It is not something we can stop. There are many elements that contributes to the complexities of our time. Let’s look at 3 of them.

1. Globalization.

Today the world is connected. We can search the web and instantly find out what is happening in other areas of the world. Globalization has contributed to our world feeling smaller. In the same breath is has added to a new understanding of the differences and complexities that each country, culture and continent have. This automatically increase the complexities of doing business, traveling etc.

2. The doubling of Information.

This links well to globalization. Because we are connected globally, we also share information globally. This information is doubling at a speed greater than we can access the information. IBM estimates that in 2020 human knowledge will be doubling every 12 hours. COVID-19 alone has contributed to the increase of information on the web. Some information that was only offline, has now found its way to the online platforms just because of COVID-19.

3. Moonshots/10x projects.

Companies often refer to Moonshot or 10X projects. There are about 200 of these moonshot/10x projects in the world, and the amount are increasing yearly. These projects are aimed at designing products and services that have the following qualities:

  • They are 10x better than similar products on the market. Note, not 10% but 10 times better.
  • The product or service is aimed at reaching 1 billion people or more.
  • The product is between testing and implementation phase.

When these products hit the market, they can instantly disrupt multiple industries. Companies who are affected by the disruption will have to instantly handle new level of complexities to survive. Although COVID-19 is not a moonshot project, it alone has increased the complexities of business and initiated some new moonshots.

How can individuals and companies thrive within these increasing complexities?

Here are a few methods that I would say are almost non-negotiable and needs continual focus:

  1. Don’t get into Neural fatigue.

Information overload tend to drain the brain’s energy. Just in the last few weeks people have started to use the term “Zoom Fatigue”. Our brain has a certain decision-making capacity in a day. Let me explain. Each time you make a decision, big or small, your brain use energy to make the decision; from liking something on Facebook to deciding who to hire or what product to enter into the market. If you spend the energy of your brain on insignificant decisions then you deprive yourself from energy for the important decisions.

For the individual this means:

  • Limit your time spend on insignificant social media platforms.
  • Use your most productive time of the day for making important decisions.

For a company this means:

  • Plan decision making meetings well. You want your staff to have energy for the meetings that truly count.
  • Create a culture of deep work. Time where people can focus without being distracted by insignificance.
  1. Simplification.

There is just too much information out there. To try and know it all and take everything into consideration is impossible.

For the individual this means:

  • Simplify your life as much as possible. This is one reason why many people are following the rules of minimalist living and the tiny house concept. Declutter your life regularly. Keep what is needed and what you truly value but don’t hoard.
  • What is truly important to you in this season of life? Don’t just add things. If you add something to your life you are also able to let go of things that don’t give you value anymore.

For a company this means:

  • Simplify internal processes and systems. This will help the organization to focus on the customer rather than internal politics etc.
  • Take away red-tape. I know this is difficult but it is still important. The inherit nature of Red-tape is to add unnecessary complexities and increase confusion.
  1. Agility.

Once things are lean and simplified it’s much easier to be agile within complexities.

For the individual this means:

  • Have enough cashflow in order to move when needed without being controlled by the perceived securities of your current reality.

For a company this means:

  • Give more autonomy for teams to design products or services that will benefit their customers. Unleash the creativity of all staff.

It takes courage to keep going in the midst of all the current and future complexities. Be courageous and keep moving forward. 

How can we support your Resilience Growth during COVID-19?

Option 1: Resilience e-coaching.

  • In 3 individual sessions of 1 hour each, with a senior Xpand coach, you work step by step through the process. And at your own pace.
  • The end result is a clear resilience training plan for the rest of 2020.

Your investment: The coaching sessions, book, workbook and scan – including VAT.
Normal: R 5 900 – Now in April: R 2 900.Option 2: Self-guided process.

Resilience package: book, workbook and scan =

Normal: R490 – April R350, – incl. VAT. Excluding courier costs.

Option 3: Online materials.

The Resilience Book is also available on Kindle.

We wish you all the best in developing your Resilience and adapting during these times.

This blog series is written by Cias Ferreira – Xpand Consultant, Coach & Trainer

Empowering individuals and organizations to thrive.