Where do the terms “VUCA” and “BANI” come from? And who knows “RUPT” and “TUNA”?
With all the diversity of the words of art, my assessment in advance:
It needs any translation and creation that gives orientation and allows organizations and leadership to do more of what is appropriate!
It would be wrong and unwise to send the terms and the ideas behind them into competition with each other. Rather, it is value-adding to think the respective statements and positions together and to understand them as further support for a world that is moving forward and at no point means “exception to a rule” anymore. That would be very naive and more wishful thinking than realism.
Best known: The acronym VUCA
The made-up word VUCA is made up of the four terms volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.
VUCA describes the changing environment
In this VUCA world, especially in the age of digitalization, leaders need to act differently – officers as well as managers. This is because the environment has also changed radically for companies and conventional leadership methods are reaching their limits. Companies can and must adapt to this new world. These necessities have become immovable realities and a much-cited turning point in time at the latest since the Corona pandemic, the Ukraine war caused by Vladimir Putin and all the resulting consequences. The term VUCA aims to make the ever less comprehensible comprehensible. It includes the description of the changed framework conditions under which decisions have to be made today. It is an environment in which information no longer has any predictive significance, because framework conditions change very quickly, coalitions of interests are becoming more and more complex, and motivations are constantly changing.
The artificial word BANI
In the meantime, there are discussions about the term VUCA being replaced by the artificial word BANI, which stands for Brittle, Anxious, Non-linear, Incomprehensible and goes back to Jamais Caisco from the “Institute of the Future” in Palo Alto. In 2020, under the title “Facing the Age of Chaos” ( facing-the-age-of-chaos ), he presented it as a “meaningful logic” that replaces VUCA, which he sees as outdated. According to his reasoning, VUCA describes the present and thus has an insistent effect. BANI names the future, whose chaos character must be accepted, and thus makes it more accessible.
If VUCA helps to grasp the phenomena of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity and to relate them to one’s own context, BANI helps to better understand and locate their effects and what they do to individuals and organizations.
And that’s what it’s all about – grasping the degree to which you are affected and addressing the needs that go along with that. This is the basis for solutions that are ultimately what it is really all about. What is required is to use existing skills, to train context competence and to develop relevant competencies that meet the demands of self-responsibility, self-efficacy and sustainability.
Do you already know RUPT?
The Center for Creative Leadership (ccl.org) in the USA uses RUPT as a proxy for Rapid, Unpredictable, Paradoxical, Tangled. If you look up how the term VUCA came to be another acronym that is so popular, especially in the U.S., it comes down to the fact that this is partly due to the military origins of the term and partly because VUCA does not seem to capture either what organizations and their leaders experience or how they get through it. Considering that the term VUCA, as mentioned at the beginning, goes back to two economists (Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus) and the American military only brought it to use, it is really relevant to better understand the actual use of the original thought model.
After all, there is also a positive translation for RUPT that includes attitudes and approaches: Reality, Understanding (synonymous as in Bob Johansen), Possibilities, Transparency.
… and there is also TUNA!
To make the list of common paraphrases of the challenges of the 21st century a bit more complete, let’s mention TUNA. Here, the four letters stand for Turbulent-Uncertain-Novel-Ambiguous. In 2016, this acronym is used in an executive education program at Oxford University instead of the more familiar VUCA.
But either way – it’s always about the same problem: The external environment changes rapidly and unpredictably, challenging companies and their stakeholders that what worked yesterday won’t tomorrow and the day after. Therefore, suitable answers and the willingness to think anew are needed!
Therefore: VUCA Positive Prime
Bob Johansen found his translation for VUCA in 2007: Vision, Understanding, Clarity, Adaptability. So what could be more obvious than to opt for the positive connotation of the four letters? In the concept of the VUKA Facilitator® we do it and enjoy a growing community that surfs the VUKA waves with us and sets its sails to the wind of VUCA, BANI, RUPT and TUNA.
Contribution by Waltraud Glaeser