Midsummer. Companies of expertise-driven leaders know this as the season of reacting to VUCA: volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. The summer holiday’s adventure has sprung up. The comfort of familiar work has come to an end. Tight muscles, cranky speech and facial vapors become a trend as workers are confronted with demands beyond their capacity to tackle. Being responsive can be costly; reactiveness is by far the easiest course of action.
Responding vs. Reacting
There are three ways we relate to each other in various situations. We move towards, against or away from a person and idea in responsiveness when we feel secure; and in reactiveness when we feel threatened. In a volatile, uncertain, complex and abstruse (VUCA) environment, where and how we move does not matter as much as when and why we do.
When and Why We Become Reactive
When we feel reactive, we are essentially asking the question, “Where’s the love?” Reactiveness masks our hunger for love when what can satisfy it becomes unknown. Presumption is a form of reactiveness in a VUCA world. What used to take us to our victory is what will keep us from our next. We tend to rely on old train systems to solve problems when roads to success turn volatile, uncertain, complex, and abstruse. We do this when past successes or failures become cantors that sing to us about what is useful or harmful to our journey. Instead of propelling us to greater heights, our expertise pull us back to levels we can control. Like a Rottweiler scaring off neighbors, our attachment to past failures and successes barks at up-and-coming allies that lend themselves to being explored.
One of the great, lamentable tragedies of presumption is that the more we succumb to it, the less container we have to bask in anything else — anything other than what we believe caters to our narrow set of values, confirms our established solutions, limits our competitors’ advantage or hides our dependencies on organic resources. Whenever our reactiveness bell clangs, God in his mercy is alerting us that something valuable is worth examining.
But we can also think of reactiveness as grace inviting us to explore and discover the gamut of opportunities in the breadth and length and depth and height of the love for us that God has sprayed through the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous season. It may be a time to let down our guards and knowledge and let such manifestation of our love hunger take our organizations back to Neverland.
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.” (Isaiah 55:1–2)