Wisdom for Success in a 21st Century VUCA World

21st Century World is characterized by VUCA of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity plus Deception (VUCAD). Successful living calls for a new mindset. The world-view of the factors, causes and proposed solutions are shown in a Visual Model. But surprisingly the wisdom that you need is not new but originated 5000 year-ago in a book called i-Ching, meaning, the Bible for Change. Applying the wisdom will lead to you the objective of harmony and abundance making up of diversities of people, races, cultures, living things in nature and in the universe.

Alvin Toffler, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”.

So what do we need to unlearn and relearn?

The Generations of Our Mindset
1. The Deterministic World of Clarity and Confidence
The mindset of the 19th century industry age is deterministic cause-effect, which is still the mindset of many people today, even those in the government, the engineering and the scientific mindset… symptoms of the one best answer, cockiness, which we now call them presumptuous.
2. The Probabilistic World and Control Limits – Not so sure but predictable within limits
The mindset of the 20th century, thanks to quantum and statistical theories, is a probabilistic world with predictability. We understand variation, standard deviation, and we only jump when things are outside the control limits. E W Deming’s A system of profound knowledge is a must read. It covers four areas of  an appreciation of systems, understanding of variation, theory of knowledge, and psychology.
3. The VUCA World – What shall we do in this seemingly mess?
The mindset of the 21st century, the hot term in this week seminars, is VUCA which stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. VUCA comes from the US Military awhile back but is new to the management gurus. Some military literature have it as VUCAD, with D standing of delay in the feedback of information from the confusing raw data. But I would like to change the D to represent Deception. In the VUCA world, delay is implied. However, in this modern world of spam, hoaxes, outright sabotaging, it is important to recognize intentional Deception and be not deceived.
The key is how do we live successfully in this VUCA world?
Do a google on VUCA and see the articles on how to, especially on leadership.
The are books that address this issue such as Strategic Speed: Mobilize People…Leaders Make the Future: Ten New… etc.
The Big Surprise
But the BIGGGGG SURPRISEEEEEEEEEEE, the leadership advices from the above articles and books are only a subset of the wisdom of I-CHING, the “Bible for Change”. The unchanging principles of i-Ching is a good guide for us to live in this VUCA world. To read more about i-Ching, see http://mind-value.blogspot.sg/2012/05/making-i-ching-come-alive.html.
The VUCAD World Visual Model:
Hope you like it and please share your advice with us.
Lim Liat (C) 22 Sep 2012

The Superior Mindset of A Leader – The 4 Dimensional Thinking

A true leader thinks and reacts differently from the common people. When the people are in a panic and don’t know what to do, the leader stays calm and works out a course of action that is able to motivate others to go along with him. How is the mindset of a true leader different from the rest? This 4D, Four-Dimensional Thinking Framework show us how:

Here is the visual for 4D Thinking:

The Inner Circle of Vision & Execution

It begins with the inner circle of the 4D-Thinking framework. A leader must be good at ‘Visioning’ and also at ‘Execution’. Common business literature like to differentiate leaders and managers. They define leaders as the ones who are able to set the vision and goals and managers as the ones good at controlling and execution. A true leader must have both qualities of visioning and execution. He must be able to chart the course, the strategies, to arrive at the destination, i.e. achieve the targets. He must be able to execute the strategies through motivating, coaching and directing others. He must be able to monitor the progress and adapt his strategies to meet the changing environment and continue to steer the organization towards the established vision. So the inner circle is made up of the 4 steps of

  1. define the vision
  2. plan out the strategies – the popular term used now is called Design
  3. execute the strategies
  4. monitor and adapt to the changes to ensure continued movement towards the vision.

The Outer Circle of 4D – Height, Length, Breadth and Depth.

  1. Height or Positioning
  2. Length of Time & Distance
  3. Breadth of Mind and Heart
  4. Depth of Insights

1. Height or Positioning

A leader must be able to stand above the situation. He does not merely react like others but choose ‘Positivity Response‘ that is not only able to see the opportunities in the crisis but even be able to convert the threats to opportunities. He thinks above the line – i.e. to take charge rather than to blame others. He is able to be creative and encourage others to have hope and to move on.

2. Length of Time & Distance

A leader has 4 types of sights:

  1. Hind-sight that learn from the past successes and failures. He does not repeat the old mistakes. He builds knowledge bases that he could use to enhance his decision making.
  2. Far-sight to see not only the short term but beyond into the long term. He sees farther than others and is able to work out the implications and side-effects of his decision way into the future, 50 years, 100year and beyond.
  3. Fore-sight to see before what others could have seen. He defines the future before and for others.
  4. Radius(Circles) of Influence: He can see what are within his sphere of influence and what are beyond. He continues to work what he can influence to extend his sphere of influence. He does not let those outside his sphere of influence to upset him.

3. Breadth of Mind and Heart

Breadth of mind means open-minded, appreciating the different views of others, being able to listen and learn any time. He synergizes diversities rather than merely tolerate them.

He has a board-heart, a generosity that love and care for others. He develops others. He cares for right and wrong, fairness and is balanced minded, always taking into consideration the views and needs of multiple parties and coming out with innovative answers and win-wins solutions for all.  He see beyond himself, family, community and into the environment.

He has passion and the persistence to continue when others would have given up.

4. Depth of Insights

Most people just see the surface symptoms and miss out the root causes. A true leader find the root causes. He digs deep and wide to discover insights, patterns and principles. Hence, he can solve problems effectively without short and long-term side-effects

Leadership of the Whole Man

Man is tripartite being of body, mind(soul) and heart(spirit) and live in relationships to one another and to the universe. Any thinking and decision making should always have these 5 factors in mind. The 4D of Height, Length, Breadth and Depth can be apply across the factors of body, mind, heart, community/others and environment/universe. It would be a complex visual to draw and I hope you like my simplification of it as shown above. Will try to improve with time.

Lim Liat (C) 31 March 2012

(Update 4 April 2012) The Version 3.0 Chart:

For version 4 update  click here.

Rephrase A Problem Positively to Get Better Answers

The quick way to get better answers to your problem is to define it in a positive way.

We can learn good management lessons from watching Korean Serials.

In the serial, “福熙姐姐”, Fuxi was the CEO of a clothes factory. They have the problem of pilferage of buttons and other accessories. The management met to discuss how to solve the problem. Before I tell you their answer, what is the thing that you would do?

Typical answer is to have inspection of employees before they leave the factory. That was their initial suggestion. But they were concern about the implications. (This is teaching us to consider the emotional and social impact of our decisions). So they went home to think about it.

The came back with the answer:

“It is better to teach our employees to love our company than to tell them not to steal from the company”.

This is the teaching of Appreciative Inquiry, and one of the very important thing that I teach in my management and innovation classes.  Applying the “Invert” operator is a good practice to generate ideas. (see BVITS Innovative Thinking Method)

Always rephrase a problem stated in a negative way into that one that is positive.

So, change from “how to reduce employees turnover” into “how to increase employees love for the company”.

Rephrase the problem into a positive challenge open up the mind for more and better solutions than thinking in negative terms. One is to increase and we think of opportunities and the other is to stop and hence we think only of barriers.

I am very surprised to find it in a Korean Serial, but may be not. Many good Korean serials like Da Zhang Jing, Shan De Nu Wang etc have management principles in them.

Teaching life and management principles through movie and TV serials are very effective. They are the non-invasive and effortless way of learning. This leads to the 2nd principle of always communicate with a story to illustrate your point. Story touches the heart and not just the mind.

In summary, we learn three things:

  1. Rephrase the problem in positive terms to open your mind to get better answers.
  2. Use story to illustrate our ideas to touch the mind and heart of our audience.
  3. Always consider the emotional and social impact of our decisions.

One more thing, will you still implement an inspection system to catch the culprit? See Integrated View of the Wisdom of Chinese Classics.  Please shaer with me what you think.

Lim Liat (C) 9 March 2012

How the Great Falls – Learning from i-Ching Hexagram 12 Stagnation

The Great does fall.As we get older, we live to see the fall of some great companies and stars. During their hay days, it is difficult to see how could they be beaten.  Some fall because of unethical and illegal practices (e.g. Enron), and many falls because of complacency and wrong strategies. They are trapped by their own success.
The most recent case was the story of Kodak chapter 11 filing. Many have written about lessons from Kodak. I think the best answers were given by Clay Christensen’s Disruptive Innovation and RVP Theories. Kodak was first to invent digital photography but they entered it at the wrong end. Instead of pitting new technology at the low end, they used the immature digital technology to compete with the high end of the film camera resulting in digital camera costing $20K to $25K and yet still not as good as the analogue film camera costing 10 times less. This keep them stuck their own film technology and be half hearted pushing for the newer digital technology.
But many other great companies of the past suffered worse fate than Kodak. But such concurrences were predicted 5000 years ago in the Book of Change (i-Ching) of the Ancient Chinese.

There is a Pattern to the Fall
Great Empire, Companies and People do not just fall suddenly. There are patterns and tell tale signs that we can find them. If only they take heed, they could save their pains. The most obvious tell tale sign is stagnation. The progress has stopped. The decline shall begins soon.

We shall look at the wisdom from a particular hexagram, hexagram 12 Stagnation. For details of i-Ching and the hexagram, please refer to Manage Change with I-Ching and 12 否 Stagnation – Don’t Give Up (Registration required). I will just reproduce the summary here:

Summary of #12 否 Stagnation – Don’t Give Up:
Success brings creeping corruption to cause stagnation and decline. Stagnation could be caused by external factors as well, such as  market and technology. The reverse, to revile a stagnation needs initiative orders from the top and support from the righteous people.  There is hope but there must be great effort put in to changing stagnation.

The six stages teachings are summarized as:

  1. Pull out the bad and/or outdated practices or people.
  2. Watch out for flattery rather than real performance
  3. Don’t be shameless. Reveal the bad practices as such – bad practices.
  4. The Top must awake and take actions and gather good people to clear the mess.
  5. Be careful in executing transformation and get cascaded and aligned support.
  6. Beginning is hard, but pursue to the end brings joy. Watch out for the law of degradation.
The 3 Signs and Stages for Decline
The first 3 line of wisdom above show us the progressive stages of decline. Firstly, there are bad practices, or outdated practices that are not noticed or taken out. Then, people pay more attention to butter up their bosses rather than really care about performance and customers. Then worse things happen. Good or bad is determined by those bosses, those in power and not by any legal or moral standards. Unless there is a big awakening, the empire, company or the big star, will end in death.

The Transformation

Wisdom line 4, also represent stage 4, tells us the big awakening. The top must be changed or be awakened, and to take steps to transform the company. (I-Ching teaches us much about transformation and break-through in other hexagrams). In a big organization, the CEO cannot do it alone. He must bring in the good and talented people into the organization. Do the reverse of earlier stages, namely, replace bad practices with the up-to-date and good ones. Go on real performance rather than flattery. Restore back the righteous and fair standards.

Line 5 tells the new CEO to continue to cascade the transformation throughout the organization. To link up everything together like a tree (the picture used by i-Ching). Line 6 encourages the CEO that it beginning maybe hard but eventual success will bring great joy and celebration. He that sows in tear will harvest in joy.

Reflections for You

Are you in a job that is involved in turning around a company? Then I encourage you to study i-Ching and learn from it.

Are you working in Google, FaceBook, Apple or other present successful companies, take heed from the teaching of i-Ching and ensure your success is sustainable through time. Build the culture of continued innovation and righteousness within in the organization that you are working for.

Lim Liat (C) 18 Feb 2012