The most influential trend affecting us today, exponentially increasing computer intelligence enveloping every aspect of our lives, is opening up new, exciting opportunities and insights.
At the same time it’s causing enormous stress, disorder, and anxiety.
As the Internet continues to bring people around the world closer together at increasing speeds and provides a virtual library of world knowledge at our fingertips, we get everything from Trump Derangement Syndrome and Computer Screen Addiction (now officially listed in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) on the one hand as well as life enhancing, collaborative breakthroughs in science, health, and education on the other.
Which will it be? Renaissance or Mass Anxiety?
Probably both. And we need to prepare.
According to the psychologist Dr. Tracy A. Dennis-Tiwary, over 90 million people in the U.S. alone will be affected by anxiety disorders over their lifetimes. That’s a third of the American people. And over 60% of college students report overwhelming anxiety which is double the number over the past five years!
How do we navigate these dramatic 21st century waves of change?
One of the more interesting new strategies to emerge out of the political and social turbulence was started by students in the U.S. Army War College, expanded thru top university business schools and conferences, and now promoted by leading business strategists (this is the same process which generated the Internet—starting with a Defense Department communications project which was then given to universities for their own use, eventually making its way into corporations and finally, individuals everywhere).
THE VUCA SOLUTION
VUCA is an acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Chaos, and Ambiguity. Even the normally intellectual Harvard Business Review refers to VUCA in an article as “….a catchall phrase for ‘Hey, it’s crazy out there.’ “
The VUCA strategy meets this craziness head on by discarding old business and societal patterns that no longer work in the current hyper-speed, hyper-change, hyper-emotional climate.
Some of the key moves that the VUCA strategy recommends for businesses and institutions trying to navigate the rising turbulence of change are over-investing in talent, getting better at collecting, interpreting, and sharing information, and being willing to experiment with new ideas and strategies even if it means restructuring the entire organization.
A good place to start absorbing the radical innovation required is to re-think what volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity are. Normally we consider these negative conditions to be avoided. But meeting them head on requires an understanding of their positive energies. All four, while uncomfortable and anxiety producing happen to be required conditions for true innovation and creative insight.
FROM THE CHAOS, ORDER
Breakthrough science and art have been connected with volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity throughout history.
When conditions are calm, certain, simplistic, and clear, there has rarely been great innovation in science, art, poetry, music, nor any transformative shifts in cultural advancement.
A fact not often highlighted is the great Italian Renaissance of the 14th-17th centuries that swept northward through Europe and Great Britain was accompanied by the horrific Spanish Inquisition and constant warfare, such as the Thirty Years War, that devastated communities.
The same is true for major transformations in business and economics. When conditions are smooth and predictable, there is little motivation for significant change or innovative shifts in perspective.
At the heart of VUCA strategy being touted for business innovation amidst the current turbulence is a principle of modern science known as self-organization.
Self-organization is a radical shift from the hierarchy models that corporations used successfully during the Industrial Age. In the modern age of expanding computer intelligence hierarchies (including all aspects of governments) have no way to keep up with the speed of change. Self-organization is a process where solutions to complex issues emerge out of many small, seemingly unconnected interactions. The process is spontaneous, disordered, and uncertain, yet organized by common purpose. Insights and solutions percolate up through the unplanned interactions, gaining an intelligence where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Psychologist Dr. Sunnie Giles, an influential VUCA strategist recommends these specific shifts:
Push decisions downward, away from top executives and toward the people who directly interact with customers and have access to the freshest, most salient information;
Move from protecting information to sharing it with everyone in the organization. To deal with volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, information has to run freely throughout the entire group;
In the hyper speed world of computer information, long, detailed attempts to come up with a perfect analysis leaves you behind the curve, not ahead of it.
Go for quicker decisions, even when uncertain of the results, and be prepared to quickly adjust them as needed.
On an individual basis Dr. David Smith, an organizational psychologist, notes that those of us who will be best suited to deal with the new VUCA environment will be “the learning agile.” This agility requires flexible thinking, collaboration, and reflection. TJ
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Despite President Trump’s advances toward peace with North Korea and Afghanistan, a pro-war and largely anti-Trump mainstream media, as exemplified by 41 Democratic Senators voting for, and only 8 against the National Defense Authorization Act, a blueprint for $708 billion in Pentagon spending, and a landslide 139-49 Democratic vote in the House of Representatives for the bill, they too will protest Trump’s peace plans.
Clearly, in America, the pro Military/Industrial/Spy Network is fully supported by the media and the political parties, with scant opposition against it.
A recent Gallup Poll shows a staggering 67 percent of employees worldwide are not engaged at work. So look for the Industrial Age hierarchies of many corporations to change into more bottom-up, self-organizing environments which get employees more involved with decision making contributions.