Educators are gradually becoming familiar with an acronym that has gained increasing relevance over the last decade: VUCA. Our world is undeniably becoming more Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. We are tasked with preparing out students to live and succeed in VUCA world.
VUCA arose in the American military sometime in the last two decades as a description of the conditions facing our armed forces in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Our planners and troops have had to develop an entirely new set of skills to be effective in these environments. Some of those skills are more familiar to Silicon Valley start-up entrepreneurs than they are to educators who have operated in systems that were largely inert to major changes over the last 50-100 years.
VUCA world is what is driving transformation in education. We simple can’t succeed in our core mission of preparing students for their futures if we don’t understand and embrace VUCA. As I elaborated on in Thrive, we did not ask for this, but it is the hand we have been dealt.
Sounds ominous, and it is. But educators are resilient, creative, and hopeful people. So I loved to hear that Mike Cobb, head of school at All Saint’s Episcopal in Tyler, Texas, has an alternative VUCA, or maybe we can call it the VUCA Antidote:
- Vision: create an organizational North Star that is not blown away by the four realities of VUCA.
- Understanding: Take the time, energy, and bandwidth to learn about new challenges and opportunities.
- Clarity: Wipe away temporary obfuscations on your windshield to keep focused on long-range purpose.
- Agility/Action: Mike likes both for the “A”. Nothing replaces “doing” when it comes to designing and iterating solutions in a rapidly changing environment.
I encourage all school leaders to have open discussions about the reality of VUCA world, and now you have a great, positive VUCA Antidote to discuss and implement as well!