Wisdom for Uncertain Times.
Fighting VUCA with VEDA.

Do you know the acronym VUCA?

Standing for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity, it was coined by the U.S. Army War College to describe the unpredictable state of the post-Cold War world.

Recently things have become very VUCA indeed!

We have volatility in the markets due to Brexit (the plunging pound) and Trump (the soaring dollar).

We have uncertainty in the political sphere with a new U.S. president who believes in impulsive tweeting, the rejection of expert advice, and cozying up to some countries (Russia) while provoking others (Mexico, China and North Korea).

We have complexity in the form of rapid technological change and shifting geopolitical power balances, especially in Asia.

And we have ambiguity—a blurring of the lines between the real and virtual worlds, between AI and human intelligence. Most of all, we simply do not know what the future holds in our volatile, uncertain and complex times.

As the new year begins, we all need to ask ourselves: What is the best way to survive and thrive in this VUCA world?

My answer is that we need to cultivate a positive attitude to help navigate a way through all this uncertainty.

My counterpunch to VUCA is another four-letter word: VEDA

“Veda” means “wisdom” in Sanskrit (as in “Ayurveda,” which means “life-wisdom”).

So what does my VEDA acronym stand for?

V = VISION

Even if the overall view is unclear, you need to have steady sense of direction in order to have a path to follow. A clear, overarching vision will help guide you.

E = EDUCATION

In a complex world, it’s important to get your hands on as much information as you can from primary sources. You should gather data, acquire knowledge, analyze and discuss things so you can make sound decisions even in a turbulent environment. Education has never been more important.

D = DIALOGUE

The year 2016 was all about divides opening up in society. Brexit and the election of Trump highlighted the gap between different groups—rural and urban, old and young, university-educated and high-school-educated, immigrants and non-immigrants etc. Elites who were out of touch with other sections of society were caught completely by surprise. To bridge those divides, it’s important to reach out to people with different points of view and engage them in ongoing dialogue.

A = ACTION

However volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous the world may be, sitting in the corner doing nothing is not a constructive option. It is important to do something. Why? Because any action—even a wrong action—necessarily produces a reaction. That reaction constitutes direct feedback to help you live in an ambiguous world. Without action, ambiguity remains in place. With action, you start to get clarity in its stead. Action generates hints and signals to guide you through the VUCA world.

I am attending the World Economic Forum in Davos next week. As I pointed out to the Japanese business and government leaders gathered at the recent pre-Davos meeting here in Tokyo, many of the leaders who will be at Davos have been rejected by their own publics. Few people I met at Davos in the past supported Brexit or Trump. Leaders need to start a clearer dialogue with society.

As 2017 opens, I’ll be interested to hear what sort of attitudes leaders will be proposing to confront our VUCA world.

Photo copyright: alphaspirit

Mr. Yoshito Hori established GLOBIS Management School in 1992 and GLOBIS Capital Partners in 1996. In 2003, GLOBIS started its original MBA program which, in 2006, received accreditation from the Japanese Ministry of Education and gained “university” status. GLOBIS started a part-time MBA program in English in 2009 and a full-time MBA program in English in 2012.

A Harvard MBA graduate and former Sumitomo Corporation employee, Mr. Hori founded the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Japan Chapter in 1995 and became the first board member from Asia in charge of Asia Pacific region in 1996. He also served on the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s New Asian Leaders Executive Committee and Global Agenda Council on New Models of Leadership, as well as the Harvard Business School Alumni Board from 2005 to 2008. Currently, Mr. Hori is a board member of the Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), and serves as co-chair of WEF’s Global Growth Companies.

In 2008, he launched the G1 Summit – a Japanese version of the WEF’s annual Davos forum. This led to the foundation of G1 Summit Institute in 2013, which Mr. Hori serves as Representative Director.

Just days after a huge earthquake struck northeast Japan in March 2011, Mr. Hori launched Project KIBOW to support the rebuilding of the disaster-affected areas. The following year Project KIBOW was incorporated as the KIBOW Foundation, which Mr. Hori serves as Representative Director.

An avid enthusiast of the Japanese game Go since age 40, Mr. Hori has been Director of the Nihon Ki-in (Japan Go Association) since June 2013.

Since October 2013, Mr. Hori has hosted a weekly TV program in Japan called Nippon Mirai Kaigi (Japan Future Conference). He has authored several books including Visionary Leaders who Create and Innovate Societies, Six Dimensions of Life, and My Personal Mission Statement.

Mr. Hori received his BS in Engineering from Kyoto University and his MBA from Harvard Business School.

He is an avid swimmer and enjoys spending time with his family, especially his five sons.

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