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HBR.

ORG

Research Watch
COMPLIANCE AND THE FRIGHT FACTOR
People who spotted what they at first thought was a parking
ticket on their windshield were more likely to buy an item
from a street vendor immediately afterward. (The tickets
were fake.) And people who were asked “Haven’t you lost
your wallet?”—but hadn’t, in fact—were more likely to agree
to take part in a survey. These experiments, by Dariusz
Dolinski and Katarzyna Szczucka, of Warsaw School of
Social Sciences and Humanities, show that the “emotional
disorganization” following apprehension and relief makes
people more inclined to comply with a request.

MANAGEMENT by Nathan Bennett and G. James Lemoine

What VUCA Really


Means for You
I t’s become a trendy
managerial acronym:
complexity volatility
+

VUCA, short for volatility,


uncertainty, complexity, and
ambiguity, and a catchall Characteristics: The situation has many Characteristics: The challenge is
for “Hey, it’s crazy out there!” interconnected parts and variables. unexpected or unstable and may be of
Some information is available or can be unknown duration, but it’s not necessarily
It’s also misleading: VUCA predicted, but the volume or nature of it hard to understand; knowledge about it
conflates four distinct types of can be overwhelming to process. is often available.
HOW WELL CAN YOU PREDICT THE RESULTS OF YOUR ACTIONS?

challenges that demand four Example: You are doing business in many Example: Prices fluctuate after a natural
distinct types of responses. countries, all with unique regulatory disaster takes a supplier off-line.
That makes it difficult to know environments, tariffs, and cultural values.
Approach: Build in slack and devote
how to approach a challenging Approach: Restructure, bring on or resources to preparedness—for instance,
situation and easy to use develop specialists, and build up stockpile inventory or overbuy talent.
resources adequate to address the These steps are typically expensive; your
VUCA as a crutch, a way to complexity. investment should match the risk.
throw off the hard work of
strategy and planning—after
all, you can’t prepare for a

ambiguity uncertainty
VUCA world, right?
Actually, you can. Here is
a guide to identifying, getting
ready for, and responding Characteristics: Causal relationships are Characteristics: Despite a lack of other
completely unclear. No precedents exist; information, the event’s basic cause and
to events in each of the four you face “unknown unknowns.” effect are known. Change is possible but
VUCA categories.  not a given.
Example: You decide to move into
HBR Reprint F1401C immature or emerging markets or to Example: A competitor’s pending product
launch products outside your core launch muddies the future of the business
competencies. and the market.
Nathan Bennett is a
ILLUSTRATION: POST TYPOGRAPHY

professor at Georgia State Approach: Experiment. Understanding Approach: Invest in information—collect,


University’s Robinson College of cause and effect requires generating interpret, and share it. This works best in
Business. G. James Lemoine is a hypotheses and testing them. Design your conjunction with structural changes, such
doctoral candidate at Georgia experiments so that lessons learned can as adding information analysis networks,
Institute of Technology’s Scheller be broadly applied. that can reduce ongoing uncertainty.
_

College of Business.
_ HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE SITUATION? +
January–February 2014 Harvard Business Review 27

Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2389563