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Are You an Explorer in the VUCA World? Here's how in today's VUCA world, every CEO's must also start visualising, thinking beyond the horizon and this leads to success

By Manoj Joshi

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Welcome to the VUCA world. Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. There is lesser stability, reduced certainty, simplicity and clarity. It is like travelling on a night Safari! Risky yet exciting. For an entrepreneur, the journey is like an expedition. In a world of turbulence, individuals see Chaos, while entrepreneurs see unlimited opportunities. Thus, how Entrepreneurial are you? Do you have an Entrepreneurial mindset? In a VUCA world, success follows to those who are nimble, proactive to shed old mindsets while looking at the future, with an explorer's mindset. We find that old sturdy processes are no longer working, hence agile companies are revisiting their strategic planning, considered mandatory for growth.

The Anonymous Side

Most of us are afraid of the unexpected & unknowns and thus look at the future with trepidation. Disruption is ruthlessly staring at most industries today, with baffled CEO's. The path to the future is both complex and ambiguous. In this world, as Bob Johannsen says in his new book, The New leadership Literacies, future will punish "certainty' but reward "clarity'. Think what is this certainty? Certainly, it is the uncertainty that is certain and shall remain to do so. Revisiting ambiguity and refining it continuously leads to clarity. Therefore, for an entrepreneur, exploring the dimensions of uncertainty is important to gain clarity. There will be a deluge of disruptions in a VUCA world, wherein the existing industries will be threatened by the new ones, thus affecting enterprises. The only response is to be an expedition master, as an explorer!

The Explorer

Therefore, in this VUCA world, we must develop the explorer's mindset, with the hindsight-insight-foresight combination. An explorer (entrepreneurial mindset) carries scanty supplies and is ready to live off the land. Richard Burton, Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama did the same, as explorers. Most of them increased their horizons and continuously learned during their journey. They challenged the existing myths in order to demystify the darkness prevailing around perceptions, similar to experience as in a night safari.

Richard aborted university studies and was a self-taught geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer, and diplomat. He left Zanzibar in 1856 to explore the source of The Nile. His adventure steered him to the "inland sea", entirely unknown while suffering frequently from fever and loss of porters, dying on the route. His surveying equipment was lost, ruined, or stolen. He explored several lakes with no outlet in the right direction, till he reached the Lake Tanganyika. His passion and tenacity prevailed upon.

Christopher Columbus was as an Italian explorer who had four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean to his credit. he ultimately discovered a viable sailing route to the Americas. Perseverance and willing to experiment with the new routes were the reasons for his adventure. Vasco Da Gama was again an explorer from the Portuguese decent and emerged as the first European to discover and connect the West with Asia. He experimented with risks.

As VUCA learners, all of them as explorers changed their perceptions!


Similarly, at the beginning of the 20th century, two shoe companies sent their salesmen to Africa to evaluate the market potential for their shoes. One telegraphed that there is no market as no one wears a shoe, on the contrary, the second one telegraphed of an unlimited market as nobody wears shoes. Was this because one had a closed mind and the other was open to exploring? Perhaps, only one of the two had an explorer's mindset, visualising toddlers going to schools wearing their little shoes. He saw unlimited potential in a market place where there was a need but none existed. It was a matter of perceptions from a contrarian viewpoint, light over darkness. How many of us have this distinct skill set to be a great visualiser? In today's VUCA world, every CEO's must also start visualising, thinking beyond the horizon. It demands a strategic shift of mindset.

The Mindset

Currently, the successful entrepreneurs and CEO's are the ones with an explorer's mindset. Bezos, Musk, Richard Branson and Jack Ma are the select ones, from whom to draw wisdom and be inspired. They are constantly engaged in exploring the unknown territory, overcoming numerous adverse situations. In the process, they are rigorously developing resilience, agility and adaptability, the key differentiators to keep them in the elite group of entrepreneurs. They are always curious, continuously raising questions and opening conversations. They visualise scenarios, where no hard data exists. They do not possess inherent wisdom but find answers as they go along. Like them are you an explorer?

Thus, in a world, webbed with several complexities and uncertainties, it mandates that every organisation must function like an explorer, in order to challenge the unexpected-unknown. It demands dynamic learning and a high level of agility. Self-learning is the best. It is time that each enterprise re-visits its strategic planning and pump in fresh ideas, mandatory to steer growth, with an explorers mindset.

Manoj Joshi

Professor of Strategy & Entrepreneurship, Director, Centre for VUCA Studies, Amity University

Dr. Manoj Joshi is a Ph.D., Fellow Institution of Engineers, Professor of Strategy & Entrepreneurship, Director, Centre for VUCA Studies, Amity University, with 27+ years of experience in industry & research. He has authored 40+ articles, co-authored two books “The VUCA Company”, “The VUCA Learner” and is also on the Editorial Board of several international refereed Journals.  

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