VUCA: Understanding Uncertainty – Is this even possible?

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 Uncertainty.


 The second element of VUCA, namely Uncertainty, is a surprising element. An element that includes more contradictions than clarity. World events are increasingly difficult to predict. Promises are fickle and contributes more to uncertainty than what is intended. Let’s look at some elements that contribute to uncertainty.

  1. The 100-year life.

Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott did a longitudinal study on the life expectancy growth in the world. Their conclusion, more than 50% of the world’s population will live until 100 years old by 2100. We know that retirement annuities last 12-17 years after retirement. This implies that the working person will work until they are 80 years old and no longer until 60 or 65. Already governments are increasing the retirement age, as a result of this progress.

  1. Artificial Intelligence.

Yorick Wilks sums it up in his book Artificial Intelligence;

It is important to come to grips with this issue because it is becoming harder to separate what AI has actually done from what is promises, and also from what media think it promises.”

AI creates a persistent problem, it keeps over-promising. AI combined with media and researchers, has the ability to keep humanity glued in uncertainty.

  1. The ever changing professional.

Work as we know it is changing. AI and other factors, such as COVID-19, are influencing the way we work. Some professional skills will not be required in the near future. How long is the near future? The reality is we don’t know. It can be a week, a month or 10 years. What we do know is that volatility and an uncertain future does influence life as we know it.

How do I thrive within the current and future uncertainties? There are various elements that helps us to stay grounded within uncertain times. Let me share 2 elements with you.

  1. Healthy Self-Awareness.

The more we understand ourselves, the better we are able to adapt to the ocean of uncertainty. Here are some questions to answer:

  • What are my intrinsic talents?
  • What are my weaknesses?
  • Where do I have blind spots?
  • What stops me from adapting to my environment?
  • How do I handle stress during challenging times?

It is good to invest in coaching to be able to grow your self-awareness.

  1. Healthy innovation.

Uncertainty can breed fear or possibility. What is your first reaction to uncertain times? A pro-active response to uncertainty is to innovate and create possibilities. I find it beneficial in times of uncertainty to listen to the real needs of my customers. It helps me to serve them with products that will bring them life and safety.

How do we as a company thrive in uncertainty? The literature is full of advice for dealing with uncertainty. Let me share 2 elements with you.

  1. Healthy Understanding.

Bill George suggests a VUCA 2.0 approach to counter the normal VUCA. He refers to V (Vision) U (Understanding) C (Courage) A (Adaptability). In uncertain times the tendency is to try and explain the situation. COVID-19 have us all trying to make sense of the current reality. Employees want to hold on to some understanding. The framework of appreciative inquiry can help in uncertain times.

  • Definition: Define the topics of uncertainty you want to inquire into.
  • Discovery:  What gives us life?
  • Dream: What are the possible futures?
  • Design: What can be?
  • Delivery: What will be?
  1. Multi-Dimensional Thinking.

Uncertainty invites us to look at reality from new and different perspectives. The more dimensions we can see the greater the opportunities. Create teams that can find different perspectives. The best teams for this are where it includes men and women, different generations, different professions and different cultures. South Africa is very fit for this purpose, lets stand together and use the opportunities before us.

Uncertainty often invites us to ask more questions than to try and give answers. It is good to embrace times of uncertainties to inquiry and explore.

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.