On the Origins of VUCA and How it Affects Decision Making

On the Origins of VUCA and How it Affects Decision Making

It’s not just you; it’s not just me. The acronym VUCA is more popular than ever. 

According to Google Trends, interest in the term is at an all-time high, following a distinct trend upward in the past several years. 

Like many ideas, however, VUCA as a framework for understanding turbulence in one’s environment wasn’t an overnight sensation. The acronym—which stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity—began decades ago with attempts to help develop strategic leaders at the U.S. Army War College.

One of the earliest references to VUCA that I’ve found is in a 1992 article in the Journal of Management Development by Herbert Barber titled, “Developing strategic leadership: The US Army War College experience.” In the article, he describes how the U.S. Army War College and The Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences sponsored a conference in February 1991 that 

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