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Facing the Age of Chaos

Excellent post on why VUCA is necessary and insufficient to the challenges we face and how BANI - Brittle, Anxious, Nonlinear, and Incomprehensible need to enter our lexicon.


The concept of VUCA is clear, evocative, and increasingly obsolete. We have become so thoroughly surrounded by a world of VUCA that it seems less a way to distinguish important differences than simply a depiction of our default condition. Using “VUCA” to describe reality provides diminishing insight; declaring a situation or a system to be volatile or ambiguous tells us nothing new. To borrow a concept from chemistry, there has been a phase change in the nature of our social (and political, and cultural, and technological) reality — we’re no longer happily bubbling along, the boiling has begun.

With a new paradigm we need a new language. If we set VUCA aside as insufficient, we still need a framework that makes sense of not just the present world but its ongoing consequences as well. Such a framing would allow us to illustrate the scale of the disruptions, the chaos , underway, and enable consideration of what kinds of responses would be useful. Ideally, it would serve as a platform to explore new forms of adaptive strategies. Scenarios, models, and transparency are useful handles on a VUCA world; what might be the tools that would let us understand chaos?

As a way of getting at that question, consider BANI .

An intentional parallel to VUCA, 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 .

BANI is a way to better frame, and respond to, the current state of the world. Some of the changes we see happening to our politics, our environment, our society, and our technologies are familiar — stressful in their own way, perhaps, but of a kind that we’ve seen and dealt with before. But so 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.

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written in Apr 2020… I think the world has gotten a whole lot more BANI!!

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yeah. well it is “non-linear”. :grimacing:

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