The World VUCA and BANI That Will Replace Them

By Thomas Bennett Financial expert at Priceva
Published on July 20, 2023
The events transpiring in recent years are so out of the ordinary, and the future so unpredictable, that special acronyms VUCA and BANI have been coined to describe them.

Both acronyms consist of the initial letters of words that succinctly and powerfully encapsulate our surrounding reality. Based on these concepts, strategies can be developed by individuals and entire communities, including business organizations.

The VUCA World – the First Model to Describe New Realities

The first of the abbreviations was the VUCA model. Like many other concepts, it originated in the American military environment in the 1980s. The acronym described ways of seeing and responding in conditions of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, provoked by the dissolution of the "Eastern bloc" and anticipation of the "Cold War" ending.

Economists Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus brought this term into the business sphere, describing it in their book "Leaders." In the early 2000s, market leaders such as Coca-Cola, Apple, and Hewlett Packard began using the VUCA model for their strategies.

So, how do these four letters translate?

V — Volatility. The term describes the constant changes in society and business - shifting trends, regular crises, "bubble" economies, fluctuating currency rates, and so forth.

U — Uncertainty. Predicting the future has become incredibly difficult. Changes in the environment, threats of armed conflicts, pandemics - these situations are impossible to forecast and can shatter any long-term plans in an instant.

C — Complexity. To construct reasonably accurate plans and forecasts, an increasing number of factors must be considered. This makes it challenging to identify which specific factors significantly impact the outcome. The complexity of the necessary computations has led to the emergence of innovations like BIG DATA, AI (Artificial Intelligence), and ML (Machine Learning).

A — Ambiguity. Signals received by society and business are often ambiguous. This stems from polarized opinions and in the business environment leads to confusion about how to act in the market.

Here are several implications of VUCA for companies:

• Employees are under stress, burn out faster, and lose motivation;

• Workers can't and don't want to establish long-term career plans;

• Both rank-and-file employees and managers frequently make incorrect decisions;

• Companies have stopped making long-term plans; while strategies used to span 3-5 years, now the planning horizon has shrunk to 1-2 years;

• In uncertain situations, the decision-making process is fraught with substantial difficulties;

• Excessive amounts of time and human resources are spent battling and overcoming unplanned events.

BANI - Describing the World Amid Globalization and Pandemic

However, the VUCA model didn't remain alone for long. In 2016, it was replaced by the term BANI, proposed by American anthropologist and futurist Jamais Cascio. He used this acronym to describe the challenges of the new reality in which the world found itself during the coronavirus pandemic.
Each of the VUCA-world terms he translated into a new category, intensifying the feeling of escalating chaos. He turned "Volatility" into "Brittleness," "Uncertainty" became "Anxiety," "Complexity" morphed into "Non-linearity," and "Ambiguity" transformed into "Incomprehensibility."

According to Cascio, using the BANI model to describe reality is a "way to better assess the current state of the world and respond to it." The new reality is even more unpredictable. It clearly reveals the breakage of all old dogmas and concepts and the birth of something new. He believes that "something grand and potentially staggering is happening," and he saw opportunities to respond to emerging challenges.

In the BANI world, soft skills, which are necessary for quick adaptation to changes, have become particularly relevant. They include:

● Empathy and compassion,
● Growth mindset and resilience,
● Adaptability,
● Creativity and reliance on intuition.

Experts assumed that the BANI model would be relevant for 5-7 years, but this happened much earlier: 2022 gave not one, but two new terms to designate reality. These are also acronyms - SHIVA and TACI.

SHIVA - Destroy to Rebirth

The first term, SHIVA, was proposed by psychologist Mark Rosin.
In a world that is volatile and complex, operating according to a clear plan, following a well-trodden path and relying on templates is ineffective. Instead, proponents of the model suggest focusing on emotional intelligence and so-called "flexible" skills, or soft skills.

Here, all previous challenges are exacerbated to the limit. The "Brittleness" of BANI predicted threats but gave hope for maintaining the status quo. In the SHIVA model, "Shattered" indicates that it is impossible to maintain previous approaches.

The same is suggested by the difference between "Anxiety" and "Horror." In a state of anxiety, it is still possible to act effectively and find new solutions. Horror, on the other hand, paralyzes and hinders rational decision-making designed to counter challenges.

The "Non-linearity" of BANI suggested unpredictability in the outcomes of actions taken. That is, calculated steps could lead to failure, while risky actions could pay off many times over.

In the SHIVA world, non-linearity has given way to "Inconceivability." And this strips away any confidence that the decision made can lead to expected results.

The "Incomprehensibility" of BANI spoke of information overload, when even excessive data does not provide confidence in the realization of the forecast.

But at least Cascio gave chances for this. In the SHIVA world, there are no chances of comprehending what is happening, and in this, it is "merciless." But the hope is that once the world reaches the final stage of destruction, it will start "reborn" in a new reality, giving hope to humanity.

In the SHIVA world model, there are references to Hinduism. The concept is built around the mission of the Hindu deity Shiva (SHIVA). It is considered the destroyer of the Universe at the end of the world cycle (maha-yuga) and the creator of space for new creation. Its image carries a deep symbolic load and a key to understanding the possible future world order.

TACI World as a Harbinger of Global Transformation

For another version of changes in the world order, following the BANI model, its author, a practitioner in the field of management psychology, Sergey Deryabin, came up with the term TACI. Here the creator followed Cascio's path. Therefore, the name does not immediately provoke any associations. To understand its essence, you need a decryption.

The TACI world is not as frightening as the SHIVA world and even resembles BANI in some ways. But it lacks the break and rebirth, and only its harbingers are marked. However, the fact that the breakdown of the old world order will happen can be seen already from the first word of the acronym.
The author implies "exponential increase in the speed of multi-directional changes" under "Turbulence". With the word "Arbitrary", he wanted to express the unpredictability, indeterminacy, and uncontrollability of events happening.

"Chaos" reflects the destruction of logical links and rules, the cancellation of once inviolable values that are becoming obsolete before our eyes, the rejection of common sense, and the triumph of absurdity.

With the word "Inimical", the author designates a general sense of global existential threat hanging over the world, hypocrisy and cynicism, distortion of information, and escalation of aggression.

According to the author, only fragments remain from the VUCA and BANI world. And humanity is faced with the ambitious task of creating a new world.

What it will be like depends on all of us.

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