“We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.” – Karl Fisch

This quote succinctly sums up the mother of all challenges faced by higher education today.  American higher education, just like businesses, operates in a VUCA world—one that is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous.

"Students are in the epicenter of a hyper-connected, ever-evolving world."

“Students are in the epicenter of a hyper-connected, ever-evolving world.”

This time of great disruptive change is not necessarily a bad thing.  According to futurist Bob Johansen, moving from the negative VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) to the positive VUCA or “VUCA Prime” (vision, understanding, clarity and agility) can lead to great outcomes.

Here are four tips to leadership in a disruptive VUCA Prime world:

  1. Diminish volatility by having “vision.”  Leaders should craft and communicate a clear picture of an organization’s destination.  Everyone needs to know where the journey is taking them.
  2. Replace uncertainty with “understanding.”  Leaders should have the ability to “stop, look, and listen.”  Effective leaders address uncertain situations by getting fresh perspectives and remaining flexible when testing solutions.
  3. Embrace and outwit complexity with “clarity.”  Leaders should make “sense of the chaos” and have the ability to see and articulate an untangled future that others cannot yet see.  Keeping things simple is welcome relief amid turbulent change.
  4. Match ambiguity with “agility.”  Effective leaders are comfortable with rapid prototyping—the ability to create quick, early versions of innovations, with the expectation that early failure is often the key to later success.  Make a decision. Fail fast. Succeed faster.
Do you effectively navigate volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity?

Do you effectively navigate volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity?

Leaders who walk through disruptive change with vision, understanding, clarity, and agility can truly shape a future with far reaching, positive effects.  This is what we strive to teach our students, who are in the epicenter of a hyper-connected, ever-evolving world.

I invite you to share your thoughts on effectively navigating volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.  Have you seen or exercised your own VUCA PRIME?

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Categories: News
  • Evan Ohl

    Great article dealing with looking at the future in multiple ways, Dr. Calingo. Are there any further examples of how this has been applied at Woodbury University in business settings or other departmental development?

    • LuisCalingo

      Evan, thank you for your comment. Woodbury University addresses vision, understanding, clarity, and agility mainly through the four pillars of Woodbury education: transdisciplinarity, design thinking, entrepreneurship, and civic engagement. These four pillars are infused and embedded in all of our degree programs.

  • Viviana Colin-Torres

    I think this gives a good sense of having an optimistic perspective. Turning something negative around into skills that you can use to your advantage, is an exercise within itself, about vision. In our personal college environment of constant change, the best way we have learned to overcome challenges has been by being understanding, and having a clear view of our goals without fear of failure.

    • LuisCalingo

      Thank you for your comment, Viviana. Failure leads to the greatest success, which is humility and continual improvement.

  • Peter

    It is nice to hear from the president of this university. We’re glad that we have a president who is nice and open and not one of those who like to be locked up in their offices all day.

    • LuisCalingo

      Hello Peter,
      Thank you for your comment. One of the main reasons for writing this and other blogs is to hear from you and your classmates. Blogs are excellent for interacting as demonstrated in this exchange and I welcome sharing ideas with you now and in the future.

  • Sahhara

    We really enjoyed reading this post, and agreed with many of
    the strong points made. Collectively, we strongly believe and agree with you
    that leadership done properly requires vision, understanding, clarity and
    especially agility. Regarding agility, we were wondering if adjustment would
    also be a necessity? Thinking it through, we realized that a good leader should
    have the option to change their path or views as long as the reason is valid,
    acceptable, and responsible. If one changes their mind or announces that they
    have made a mistake or wrong choice, it is not a sign of weakness but rather a
    sign that the leader is even more qualified and can truly be trusted.

    -Jordan Sumbu, Vicky Liu, & Sahhara Assafiri

    • LuisCalingo

      Jordan, Vicky, and Sahhara, thank you for your comment. Agility might lead not only to innovations, but also adjustments or mid-course corrections. You might treat agility as adjustment on steroids.

  • LuisCalingo

    Haley, the pace of change in an unpredictable world can be terrifying, indeed! Rather than being at its mercy, it is much better to be a leader and navigate through the unknown. I hope this blog provided a new perspective on confronting and dealing with the problems that encounter us.

  • alma espartinez

    excellent write up, dr. calingo. you gave me an idea on what to write re the on going GPH-Bangsamoro peace deal. brilliant thoughts you have.