Startups In The VUCA World


Today’s digital age is filled with Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA) in every aspect of execution in the startup journey. Ease in Information access and technological innovations have been and will continue to create new exponential customer needs that never existed before, which is prime reason for the growing entrepreneurs in the world to solve them.

Entrepreneurs are distinguished with the FORESIGHT to create new INSIGHTS in solving new problems with their ACTIONS. Entrepreneurs journey is an iterative process between the above three pillars in making a difference in the human world.

In a linear world, a startup would succeed by directing, predicting, knowing the answers, doing more of the same, controlling, and managing. The future is an extension of the past. But, in a VUCA world – one filled with Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity – startups must change how they operate.

  • Volatility – The nature and dynamics of change, the dramatically escalating rate and speed of change and the associated risks of instability and flux. Volatility demands a willingness to take action, to explore and probe in changing conditions. BUT Volatility can cause fear, risk- aversion and “back- to- basics” reactions
    • Not letting passion to do more muddy the VISION is the key in leading the startup towards success in a VOLATILE world
  • Uncertainty – The lack of predictability, the prospects for surprise, and the sense of not knowing what the outcomes of even known changes might be. To operate successfully in Uncertainty we must develop a wider sense of the events and conditions surrounding us and be willing to understand that others‘ views of what is occurring can inform a larger and more accurate picture. But, Uncertainty frequently leads to paralysis through a desire to spend inordinate amounts of effort on data, with the false hope that accumulating and studying more data will provide us with the answer.
    • In depth UNDERSTANDING and the attention to details will help foresee UNCERTAINTIES in a calculated approach
  • Complexity – The intricate relationship of systems and their parts, the opposite of simplicity and the multifaceted effects of multiple factors, drivers, and influencers. Dealing with Complexity requires us to stay focused on what we are trying to achieve and to be flexible and creative in how we carry out our intentions. But Complexity can drive the unproductive behaviors of scapegoating and black and white dualities.
    • CLARITY in the direction and actions drive positive and firm results which are most desired in addressing COMPLEXITY
  • Ambiguity – The fuzziness of reality and the state of an event or situation that is capable of being understood, made sense of – or misinterpreted – in many different ways. Ambiguous conditions demand agility and require that we create conditions that foster decision- making and innovation at the front- lines. BUT Ambiguity often induces doubt, distrust and hesitancy in decision making. And it can stifle innovation.
    • AGILE operation and analyzed decision making create the means to avoid AMBIGUITY

Success in this VUCA World is driven by knowing how to lead, engage, pivot, develop, make decisions, take action and innovate.

If you like movies, check this slide deck on “Leadership in the VUCA world” to understand the VUCA terminology in more depth. by Tathagat Verma


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