From a VUCA to a BANI world: How to navigate this transition.
Every day we are confronted with an ever-changing world. VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) is one of the best-known acronym to define the world we are experiencing.
The concept of the VUCA world emerged right after the end of the cold war, to try to explain the new world dynamics that were emerging. The goal was to describe the social changes that were taking place and how individuals, organisations and society, should understand it. From a post-war instability, this concept started to be applied to describe the technological, social, cultural, and mainly the daily life of people, companies and societies.
The main characteristics of the VUCA world are volatility (speed of change), uncertainty (inability to understand what is happening), complexity (high number of factors that one must consider making a good decision) and ambiguity (lack of clarity to interpret the situation). However, in recent years, and especially with the beginning of the pandemic it was realised that the acronym VUCA no longer described the world today. Some authors began to understand that volatility and complexity were not enough terms to explain a world that was becoming chaotic, unpredictable, and incomprehensible.
A new acronym recently emerged to describe the new world we are living in, BANI– Brittle, Anxious, Non-linear and Incomprehensible. The digital acceleration that occurred in the last two years with the pandemic made this concept even more relevant since it clearly expressed the reality many organisations are facing.
The BANI world seems to be an evolution of the VUCA world, but what does BANI stands for?
Brittle: the idea is that we are fragile, susceptible to any sudden change (such as a catastrophe). From this perspective, what is valid today may not be so tomorrow. Everything is built on a fragile foundation, and one event can easily change the course of events. Companies are presently addressing many challenges concerning managing the business and people. In conditions of constant change, this challenge tends to be increasingly demanding.
Anxious: one of the most reported symptoms people are experiencing today is anxiety. This is also reflected in the work context, creating a sense of urgency and little security that can negatively impact some personal and organisational decisions. As a team manager the challenge is to provide the best conditions for people to feel less anxious, enhancing their well-being and feelings of security so that they can be focused and productive.
Non-Linear: nowadays events can seem disproportionate and illogical. Thus, the biggest challenge facing organisations, is their own management and planning. It is important to plan based on well-defined metrics, but also to have the ability to keep track of them and adapt, as necessary. The capacity of flexibility and adaption are more critical than ever to ensure sustainability.
Incomprehensible: when answers are looked for and do not make sense, incomprehension arises. With the lack of logic of the events, we have a growing feeling of lack of control. We conclude that our knowledge is not sufficient to understand all phenomena and that we cannot have answers to all our questions. In a work context it is necessary to make decisions based on facts and data but also through people’s intuition and insight. Even so, nothing guarantees that these decisions will be the best ones, there is always a risk associated.
In this fragile scenario, organisations must upgrade their strategies and methods to survive and become competitive. Three particularly important aspects for this to happen are: being aware of the context and the signs of change, strengthening their teams to become more resilient and available to change, and adopting a culture of collaboration and support. Companies should also recognise that the BANI world does not only have negative consequences. This instability creates ground for new opportunities that can be excellent vehicles for personal and organisational success.
But how to manage a company in the BANI world? Some suggestions bellow coming from recent research:
- Resilience, flexibility and adaptability are essential as a manager to deal with this fragility.
- Empower your team members to become more agile in the process of adapting to change. Promote autonomy, responsibility and self-efficacy continuously.
- To minimize the effects of anxiety, encourage your team to adopt stress recovery strategies during and after work, promote empathy and peer support, and collaborative work. Also, encourage and develop the group’s emotional intelligence.
- Be a model for life-work integration and create enough flexibility to accommodate diversity.
- Non-linearity can be resolved or mitigated by being attentive to context, planning based on data, tracking the development of metrics, and working on our flexibility. It is essential to have some contingency plans for more sensitive issues in the organisation. For example, companies that had a plan to get all their employees to work remotely had an advantage over those that had never thought about it.
- Dialog and transparency are essential to better understand the world. Try to promote trust among peers and talk openly about these issues with your team.
- Take care of your team’s health and invest in empowering people to become better able to anticipate, plan, react, and adapt to the demands of the ever-changing environment.
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Grabmeier, S. (2020, September 23). BANI versus VUCA: A new acronym to describe the world. Stephan Grabmeier. Available at: https://stephangrabmeier.de/bani-versus-vuca/
Mäkeläinen, S. (2018, October 16). Welcome to BANI. LinkedIn. Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/welcome-bani-sami-m%C3%A4kel%C3%A4inen/
Anna (2021, July 22). Leadership in the New “Bani” World. Available at: https://dotway.com/leadership-in-the-new-bani-world/#0
Team, M. (2021, November 9). From a VUCA world to a BANI one: How uncertainty has changed and how your company can prepare. MJV Technology & Innovation. Available at: https://www.mjvinnovation.com/blog/from-a-vuca-world-to-a-bani-one/