Strategies for living in the ‘BANI’ world

In my last post I spoke of how the ‘BANI’ world (B = brittle; A = anxiety; N = nonlinear; I = incomprehensible) has overtaken the decades old concept of the ‘VUCA’ world.

During his leadership talk at the Financial Express CFO Awards in March 2022, Sanjiv Mehta, CEO, HUL, remarked that BANI world is one where systems break without warning. “Businesses have to be prepared for this BANI world” Mehta said.

How do we then deal with this new ‘BANI’ world? What should be our strategy to not just survive but also grow and equip ourselves with new learnings?

B= Brittle

To reiterate, ‘brittle’ is about how we are susceptible to catastrophe at any time. Needless to say, all businesses that are built on fragile foundations can fall apart overnight.

James Cascio, the American anthropologist who coined the word ‘BANI’ recommends incorporating resilience building in teams as a strategy. Some tools that can work here – developing a culture that fosters collaboration and investing in training tools that sharpen resilience in teams and organisations.

One fine example would be to encourage your team members to opt for cross functional projects. Often the fear of the unknown stops people from experimenting and learning something new. A dip into a new whole world of learning can prepare one to withstand unexpected shocks of change and uncertainty.

A = Anxiety

If you have ever dealt with anxiety or have had an anxious person in your team or family, you probably know what works best here. It is empathy and mindfulness. These responses are often not our first response. We have to practice these tools so that they become engrained as an immediate and auto response to any anxiety driven situation.

Communicators often face situations where fake news overrules logic and reasoning. Pressured by timelines and management to ensure the right news is out there at the right time can lead to a highly anxiety driven situation. At such times it behooves managers to be empathetic and understanding enough of the fact that the fake news battle is not something that can be won over. The focus instead has to be on creating an authentic data driven narrative that will outlive the fake news.

N = Nonlinear

Context and flexibility can provide possible responses and solutions to a nonlinear situation, says Cascio. 

Companies can no longer afford to be rigid and set in their ways of functioning. Having a long-term strategy now is passé. Organisations need to be flexible and agile and function as a ‘giant’ startup!

The pandemic forced communicators to rethink on their strategy, messaging and the platforms that were being used for both, internal and external audiences. Zoom, Teams, Slack, Webinars, Online learning sessions – all these overtook the conventional email messaging platform.

I = Incomprehensible

According to Cascio, transparency and intuition can help us deal with an incomprehensible situation. When systems change, we have no choice but to change. For that is the only way we can adapt. 

The ‘BANI’ world provides us with an opportunity to develop a new approach to situations and things. Organisations need to relook at the way they function and rework their strategies so that they are ready to cope with this new order of the world.

As professionals, we need to be more agile and at the same resilient to disruptions that may have the tendency to shake our fundamentals and imbalance us for some time. Here is an opportunity for us to create innovative solutions to deal with new challenges.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Country Group Head CSR at Bayer - South Asia
Sarita Bahl leads the Corporate Social Responsibility function for Bayer South Asia and is also the Director – Bayer Prayas Association. Prior to this, she successfully oversaw the communications and public affairs function for Bayer South Asia. Over her three decades of professional experience, Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, public sector, trade associations, MNCs and the Not-for-profit sector. An alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Science and the Swedish Institute of Management Program, Sarita specializes in stakeholder engagement, sustainability and communications. She is passionate about animals (is mother to a female cat), books and movies.

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