Testing, testing, testing … switching from VUCA to BANI

Posted by Flux on 

24 July 2020

(A message from Flux Founder, Dion Chang)

In a recent article on WIRED – How businesses can reorganise for an unpredictable world – they introduced a new acronym B.A.N.I (don’t try and google it, your search will point you to, Ban Asbestos Network of India).

BANI, they recommend, is much more appropriate for a pandemic-impacted business world than the more commonly used acronym VUCA.

VUCA, which stands for, volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity is frequently used by executives and business schools to illustrate, navigate and map strategies for a disrupted business environment – specifically business disruptions associated with the 4IR.

The acronym was popularised by the US Army as a result of the extreme conditions in Afghanistan and Iraq. These conditions were totally new and changed the nature of warfare, hence the parallels to tackling digitalised and ever-changing business environments.

BANI, on the other hand, stands for brittleness, anxiety, nonlinearity and incomprehensibility, which sadly, better illustrates the COVID-19 world of 2020.

The article states that, “businesses would look to a linear model of how the world worked. That’s good up to a point. And the point at which it ceases to be good is the one that we have reached very definitively over the past few months”.

Every business owner would agree that it is not only the past four months of lockdown that have been devastating to their business, but now there is the added insult of uncertainty for the rest of the year. 2020 is basically a write-off. 

But forge ahead we must.

And when we do, we need to frame our business challenges using the BANI acronym and be specifically mindful of the last two letters of the acronym: nonlinearity and incomprehensibility.

In a previous article on anticipatory grief I wrote that, “re-starting your business is becoming less about simply reviving it, but considering very carefully, how (and more importantly, if) your original business model fits into a changed and radically altered societal mindset.”

And therein lies the key. Is your current business model still relevant to a radically changed world?

If you embrace nonlinearity and incomprehensibility, you might need to come to terms with the harsh reality that your original business model – or some of it – is frozen in a pre-pandemic state and needs reframing. But if nonlinearity and incomprehensibility are all you have to work with, how do your strategise for goalposts that are not anchored?

This is where transient, short-term strategies have to be tested. There are no fixed rules, and this state of limbo will continue well into 2021. It’s time to adopt the sailing manoeuvre of tacking: the art of turning the bow (front) of the boat through the headwind so that the wind changes from one side of the boat to the other side. 

The depth of uncertainty for the rest of the year is unsettling, which is why long-term strategies are now futile. No one knows how the world will emerge from the pandemic, so the best you can do now is ensure your business survives, whatever it takes. In most cases that means trial by error: test new services, new product offerings, new communication avenues and language. Some ideas might even seem illogical or off-centre from your core business model, but if they help weather the storm, it’s all that really matters.

Who knows, you might ditch the transient strategy when the pandemic is under control, or you might just find you’ve inadvertently pivoted your business into something more appropriate for a post-pandemic world. 

But you’ll never know unless you tack into unchartered waters.

By Dion Chang – Founder of Flux Trends 

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Image credit: Marian Trizuliak

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