The VUCA Discipline


In a modern business world marked by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA), an understanding of how the human mind addresses and adapts to changes is necessary to help people learn to work in different cultural contexts.

Throughout most of the 20th century, the disciplines of sociology and biology were separated, the former being used to study human social behavior and the latter the human brain. But recent years have seen the development of a new approach synthesized from the two fields: social neuroscience, which emphasizes the complementary relationship between the different social and biological domains (for example, molecular, cellular, system-related, personal, relational, collective and societal).  

This discipline increasingly informs leadership research as it sheds new light on cultural competence, which is the ability to intentionally change and adapt, proactively creating new contexts, environments and circumstances that maximize constructive outcomes for all stakeholders.

The best way for leaders to gain cultural competence for themselves and other members of their organizations is through the Cultural Orientations Approach. The COA is based on solid social and scientific research and helps people put into practice an understanding of how behavioral norms, displays and choices are connected to personal preferences and biases, belief systems and values. The COA is a powerful tool for today’s leaders to expand their understanding of their own cultural behavior preferences and those of the people they work with.

Harnessing the COA is the key to thriving in a VUCA world, which requires that people view, respond and adapt to differences so that they can effectively communicate and collaborate in a rapidly changing environment.

Karen Walch