The acronym VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) is a term that built upon leadership theories of American academics Bennis and Nanus, used in military circles and then adopted far and wide in later decades. Often used in strategy classes and in the meeting rooms of leaders, it helped draw attention to the need to look into the future and promote behaviours supportive of failure and success. Its origins are 30 years old.
Post-Pandemic (if indeed we can use that phrase), the new acronym of BANI crops up more. Standing for Brittle, Anxious, Non-linear and Incomprehensible and developed by Cascio of the Institute of the Future, it helps us generate new insights by thinking through the consequences of new realities. It is argued that VUCA is not as powerful in stimulating action in today’s world. We know in tech-rich worlds action matters in raising digital maturity.
BANI and Technology
Technology can indeed be, or at least feel ‘incomprehensible’, especially at the borders between deep technical specialists and business staff, or between ethics and AI, or between burnout and growth mindset during technology adoption, which can be so very ‘brittle’. Technology can make us feel stronger and then collapse everything around us so very rapidly during a cyber-attack.
BANI helps us act when learning about technology if we relate it to value, so that we anchor it in concepts that are more durable – whether those be efficiency or innovation or revenue or talent management. This makes technology more comprehensible as we have a solid foundation on which to base our understanding.
Anxiety is heightened when technology increases the choices available to us and questions who we are as we seek to embrace another new system or way of working or whole new role. Anxiety around technology can be countered if we focus on workplace wellbeing and support related to technology adoption. It focuses our efforts on teamwork, so we can bare the brunt of failing fast, as we adopt agile practices.
Non-linearity is often useful when exploring the picture beyond technology and how it connects to, as big, or even bigger, events such as climate change. Talking of big, it helps us remember that even big data can be too big unless data governance helps us trust the data so we can use it rather than be overwhelmed by it. Talking overtly about non-linearity helps share the challenge collaboratively.
Even if the world feels incomprehensible, we cannot just cave into our lack of understanding. FOr example, we need to learn and learn collectively. Choosing learning modality can help here in motivating employees to breach that which is incomprehensible. When might self-paced learning help an employee learn at their speed, and create psychological safety by doing so? When might Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT) reduce anxiety around workload by being precise, human and part of the normal day? When might F2F training be needed to take BANI to a level that is meaningful within a collective/
Contact us and ask us about how to ensure learning modality works for our BANI world and how we can support learners to cope with technology in a BANI world whilst becoming leaders in the digital age.
More articles by Dr Jill
Adapting to technology – the People Organisational Factor
The Role of Vulnerability in the Digital Age
Networking in the Digital Revolution
Why should you learn about digital transformation?
Critical thinking in the age of the digital leader