As a Futurist I’ve been as guilty as anyone for talking up how fast-moving and unpredictable the modern business environment is. The age of disruption.
The trend is so well established it even has its own acronym, VUCA – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.
Now I’m not denying that those factors exist. Or claiming that the future is entirely predictable. If it was, life would be incredibly dull. There’d be no point in ever making any decisions, as everything would already be a predictable forgone conclusion.
At the same time if the world was completely unpredictable, we simply couldn’t operate. From eating to sustain ourselves, to operating a business to make a profit, the laws of cause and effect enable us to make our own way in the world.
The richness of life and business comes from this balance we live in – between the states of unpredictable and predictable. Which is where opportunity and risk lie.
If you consider the mechanics of how disruption works in the natural environment, it gives you clues as to how to create or avoid disruption in the business environment. Think of a still surface of water suddenly being disrupted – whether it’s by a pebble skimming the surface or a fish leaping from below.
If you just look at the surface, the sudden disruption will seem to appear out of nowhere. However if you’re constantly scanning the wider environment and looking deeper below the surface, you can spot signs of movement far earlier than others.
Then well before the surface disruption arrives at the point of impact, you can trace a trajectory of movement signalling possible disruption. Which highlights why it’s all about probabilities and new possibilities, not predictions and certainties.
For example as the fish heads towards the surface, many other factors might cause it to change direction. Or if you’ve ever skipped a pebble across water, you know that it’s virtually impossible to predict how many skips it will make.
So to disrupt disruption you don’t need to deal in absolutes and certainties. Instead it’s about being comfortable with ambiguity and the unknown. Spotting changes in movement ahead of others, giving you more time to react – whether you choose to brace for impact, change course or accelerate ahead.
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