Surfing in a VUCA World


Susan’s recent blog about the “VUCA World” we’re living in really struck home for me. Ever since we learned about that term in the interview in Houston, we’ve had occasion to use it as a quick way to focus on what’s most immediate to our clients: how to operate most successfully in this business environment.

Today’s business environment demands a new approach for success. Applying best practices from the past is important but insufficient. Organizations must learn to sense and actualize emerging futures – gain new knowledge constantly and act on that knowledge instantly. This is the essence of using Generon’s U-Process on a day-to-day basis. There is a societal blind spot about this process. It is seen as seemingly difficult and out of reach of the ordinary person. But nothing could be further from the truth. We are designed to be able to do this – but our capacity to do so is socialized out of us at an early age – from just after Kindergarten on.

What’s necessary now is to shift society’s belief systems and begin to trust our natural gift for accessing new knowledge. One way to do this is to point to the experience of highly successful artists who speak of this capacity constantly. Hardly a week goes by when I see an article or hear an interview of a famous artist who casually alludes to their experience of tapping into the source of new knowledge. Here are a few examples:

  • Herb Alpert of the Tijuana Brass (nine Grammies and co-founder of A&M Records). When asked how he conceives of his chart topping songs says, “There is no master plan. I just picked songs that popped into my head…I’ve made a career out of doing what feels good to me. I just react to what sounds good and try to stay as spontaneous as possible. I try to be honest and listen to my inner voice. I listen to my instincts.”

  • Tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, a recipient of the National Medal of Arts and a Grammy lifetime achievement award speaks of “the music playing me.” He said, “When it comes through me is when it’s really happening.”

  • Jessie Norman, the famous black opera singer spoke of “being a channel” when he sings.

  • Andre Romelle Young (Dr. Dre) who sold his beats electronic headphone company and streaming service to Apple, serves as Beats “cultural barometer” of what is cool and next on the horizon. His process, colleagues say, is “mysterious” and his assessments are “immediate and personal.”

  • Economist Brian Arthur says this process of accessing and acting on new knowledge is like surfing: “This inner Knowing comes from here,” pointing to his heart. “In a sense, there is no decision making. What you do just becomes obvious – a totally different set of rules applies. You hang back. You’re more like a surfer or a really good race car driver. You don’t act out of deduction. You act out of an inner feeling; you’re not even thinking.”

This way of creating new knowledge must become the “new normal” for the most successful firms to stay on top.

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