VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity), a term derived from the military vocabulary, is today also used by organisations as they look to charter their growth in the current economic slowdown. Though the term VUCA has been in vogue since the late 1990s, R Gopalakrishnan, Director, Tata Sons believes that it has always been present in society since time immemorial and that VUCA has happened in the concurrent world of SPCC (Simple, Predication, Clear, Calm).
He noted that though the pace of change of technological responses has kept pace with VUCA development, there remains a constant gap which calls for even more technical responses. However, Gopalakrishnan believes that it is the human response which has not adapted fast enough to this change. This is because human behaviour changes gradually and thus, it becomes important to focus on human adaptiveness in today’s VUCA world.
Drawing on the key lessons learnt over the years, Gopalakrishnan mentioned that it is important to learn from nature around us and that the corporate world has forgotten to do that. He stated that while companies today look at efficiency and getting the best bang for the buck, nature, on the other hand, emphasises on effectiveness and not efficiency. While most companies look going down a straight path, nature shows us a spiral path. He believes that for institutions to successfully respond to the VUCA challenge, we need to look at the world differently and that it is not a bad idea for companies to actually go around in circles, reiterating that in today’s VUCA world human adaptiveness is complex and a big challenge.
On the volatility and turbulence around us, Gopalakrishnan felt that the current work structure is engineered to make us control the environment around us. However, nature looks at not controlling turbulence, but leveraging it, which is far more effective in the long run and thus, companies should look at leveraging turbulence and not suppressing it.
Gopalakrishnan further said that India being a complex and cosmopolitan country has always existed in a VUCA world and the success of Indian entrepreneurs could be attributed to the fact that Indians are been wired for VUCA. The Tata Sons Director also emphasised on the importance of rediscovering intuition. He stated that intuition played a big role till the 16th century, when rationality took over. While rationality has its merits, intuition plays a big role in all critical decision making in life and business and ignoring this intuition will make the person/ company incapable of handling VUCA. Therefore, it will be “foolish to ignore” intuition. He also added that in the VUCA world, Indians were far more intuitive and likely to succeed. “Don’t blame the environment, but look at your own focus,” he concluded.
R Gopalakrishnan was speaking at ISA’s Global CEO Conference - Navigating VUCA, organised by the Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) in partnership with exchange4media. The session was moderated by Brahm Vasudeva, Non-Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors, Hawkins Cookers. The Conference was held in Mumbai on October 30, 2013.