The More Things Change …..

We hear a lot about the increasing pace of change in our world today.  So much so that we have created a whole new set of acronyms.  My current favourite is VUCA, which I saw in a recent McKinsey article.  VUCA world – volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.

We seem to be obsessed with VUCA and the increasing rate of VUCA.   While the pace of change is increasing, particularly in our technology industry, the obsession with uncertainty is at best  unhelpful and devastating at worst.

The problem with our focus on change and VUCA is that it drives fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) …. and when we are driven by FUD our base human reactions of fight or flight kick in.  As a result, we drive fear within ourselves and within our organisation.  While creating fear might be an effective scarcity based sales technique, no one does their best work when they are fearful.  In particular we lose virtually all of our ability to be creative and innovative.   It’s somewhat ironic but by focusing on VUCA, the pace of change, you lose your ability to adapt, innovate and, change.

But VUCA is everywhere, it does represent risk and you ignore it at your peril. So what to do?

In the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen Covey speaks of the power that flows from an “unchanging core.”  This is based upon centering your life on universal principles.  Others talk of the power of an overriding purpose or mission.  I think this is the key.  Rather than focusing on VUCA and the turmoil it creates, we can and should focus on our unchanging core and then put change into the context of that core.   With this perspective, we can then readdress VUCA and what it means for our purpose.  The vast majority of change will mean very little when looked at from the perspective of purpose.  However, some of the change, which previously appeared as disruptive and threatening, will begin to appear as a new opportunity to progress our purpose.

So, as a CIO or senior IT practitioner how can you use this?  Focus on understanding why your team and your role exists.  I believe the CIO role exists to support the organisation to be successful through the smart application of information and technology (realising the value and potential of IT).  No matter how fast technology evolves this core purpose is unlikely to change.  Start here and use this as the context through which you see the world. From this perspective, look at the changes that are occurring in our world and ask yourself, how can I use this to make our organisation even more successful?  In many cases the answer will be nothing, so ignore it.  But for those where there is a positive answer, pick the best opportunities and work with your colleagues across the organisation to make them happen.


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