The VUCA world is dead. Welcome to the new BANI world.

Who would have ever thought the pandemic would result in one more casualty; that of the VUCA world? 

The term ‘VUCA’ was coined by the US Army post the Cold War period to explain the then emerging world dynamics. The instability that gripped the countries then, the rapid changes and the way technology was sweeping across like a hurricane impacting people and organisations had everyone scramble and search for a new definition to describe this change. The perception then was that the world was Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous – VUCA.

The ‘VUCA’ terminology became ubiquitous in management courses, strategies, vision exercises and no functions were left untouched by the enormity of the world we were living in then. I remember attending so many communication events that spoke of the ‘VUCA’ world and how as communicators we had to learn to find our way around. It was a pet jargon for many of us.

Well, ‘VUCA’ is now dead. Welcome to the whole new world of ‘BANI.’

BANI – a new world order

No ever thought that a pandemic would hit us with such a force that it would lead to the creation of an entirely new world order. The ‘VUCA’ world had clearly not been ready to deal with this kind of severity and chaos that caused disarray in the very fiber of how we lived and worked.

Coined by American anthropologist, author, and futurist Jamais Cascio, ‘BANI’ has considered the changes brought about by the pandemic.

According to Cascio,” Many of the upheavals now underway are not familiar, they’re surprising and completely disorienting. They manifest in ways that don’t just add to the stress we experience, they multiply that stress.”

“BANI — Brittle, Anxious, Nonlinear, and Incomprehensible — is a framework to articulate the increasingly commonplace situations in which simple volatility or complexity are insufficient lenses through which to understand what’s taking place. Situations in which conditions aren’t simply unstable, they’re chaotic. In which outcomes aren’t simply hard to foresee, they’re completely unpredictable. Or, to use the particular language of these frameworks, situations where what happens isn’t simply ambiguous, it’s incomprehensible.”

The ‘BANI’ framework focuses on the ongoing consequences of change and chaos that has gripped the world today.

B= Brittle

We live in a brittle world. The Ukraine crisis and war has created ripples around continents and things seem to be falling apart quickly. A democratic country like the USA can today easily get shattered by cultural issues that can overwhelm its people and create more anxiety.

A = Anxiety

If you have ever experienced anxiety, you will understand what it means – an immense, deep sense of helplessness. Nothing seems to be working, ever. The sense of despair can be so high that one may just shut oneself from all that is going around the world. You are no longer in control.

N = Nonlinear

Who does not remember the cause-effect theory…’The effect produced by a particular cause becomes the cause of another phenomenon, which, in turn, becomes the cause of a third phenomenon, and so forth.’  

Today, we live in a nonlinear world wherein the cause and effect are seemingly disconnected or disproportionate. The pandemic and global climate change are two examples of nonlinear incidents, the effects of which are still being understood and will stay with us for generations to come.

I= Incomprehensible

The speed with which the second wave of Covid-19 hit us left many of us staggering with the impact of it all. How do we even comprehend these changes?

We can’t, because these changes are honestly, incomprehensible. Can anyone of us ever make sense of the pandemic? No amount of logic or purpose can provide an explanation that would suffice to explain the mayhem the pandemic has left behind and still continues to do so. 

The amount of information overload that was out there trying to explain the pandemic and its aftermath had an opposite effect – instead of soothing people, it led to a high degree of noise that was clearly incomprehensible. Nothing really made sense.

The ‘BANI’ world calls for a new way of thinking and working through issues and problems. Are we ready for it?

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

Sarita Bahl
Sarita Bahl is an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the Swedish Institute of Management Program. An experienced and versatile leader, she comes with nearly four decades of professional experience. She has over the years successfully overseen the communications and public affairs function and led the corporate social responsibility strategy for Bayer South Asia, Pfizer, and Monsanto, among others. Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, the public sector, trade associations, MNCs, and the not-for-profit sector. Her areas of interest include advocacy, stakeholder engagement, sustainability, and communications.

As an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and Senior Practitioner (Mentoring) from the European Council of Mentoring and Coaching (EMCC), Sarita specializes in career transition, inner engineering and life issues. Sarita enjoys writing and is passionate about animals, books, and movies.

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