Bits & Bytes

The World As It Could Be

I just learnt a new acronym: VUCA. VUCA, I was told, has two possible meanings to reflect the world we live in today. The first VUCA stands for Volatile Uncertain Complex Ambiguous. It means: We live in a world that is dangerously unstable, hanging by a thread, complicated and confusing. I call this VUCA negative.

The other meaning for VUCA is Vision Understanding Collaborative Agile. It means: With a compelling vision and a more understanding perspective, one may choose to be collaborative, becoming agile and adaptive, so that we could all do better. I call this VUCA positive, where enduring hope abides. Who are “we”, you may ask? Anyone and everyone who considers it his or her duty to be accountable for the well-being of the universe.To which group do you belong? Are you VUCA positive or VUCA negative? Which values do you teach your children?


VUCA positive and VUCA negative belong to two entirely different camps. Seeing yourself as VUCA positive doesn’t mean you ignore what’s not right in the world. Rather, you take notice of what’s unpleasant near you, and do something about it, to the best of your ability. Everyone of us has a circle of influence. VUCA positives commit to do what they can within their circle of influence.

VUCA positives are incurably and obstinately optimistic. Let me share with you a book I read recently that embodies VUCA positive. In Blue Ocean Shift: Beyond Competing, W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne wrote about a world where one’s gain doesn’t come at the expense of others. Instead, the world we should all aspire to invent is one where organisations and individuals go beyond competing “to create new frontiers of opportunity”.

Authentic VUCA positives do not hunt for external recognition by the way. Instead, they look for situations where they could create value. Take for instance, Maggie MacDonnell, the lady who won the Global Teacher Award 2017. When she first arrived in the Canadian Arctic, Maggie found a community in a sad state of affairs. In 2015 alone, six males aged 18 to 25 committed suicide in Salluit, a village that could only be reached by air. Maggie had a vision of a better future.

With a radically different approach and through acts of kindness, she sought to understand her target group of youths, turning”problem” youths into “solutions”. Together with the community, she raised funds and established a fitness centre for youths, collaborated with a daycare centre, and set up a community kitchen where youths work and contribute, lifting their sense of worth like never before. Maggie has also been a foster parent to some of her students.

Last year, the Global Teacher Award 2016 was also conferred to a teacher who proved that something could be done in the bleakest of circumstances. Hanan al-Hroub, a teacher from Palestine, came up with a fundamentally different way of teaching her students who were and still are exposed to violence in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Using tools from everyday items, Hanan created an atmosphere of peace, security and harmony, building elements of trust and respect, so her students could learn. Hanan al-Hroub and Maggie MacDonnell are two authentic VUCA positives.

Every single day, we meet people who either are VUCA positive or VUCA negative. You become the people you hang out with. VUCA positives refuse to be shrouded by an air of hopelessness. Are you VUCA positive or VUCA negative? To which camp do you belong?

As a Muslim, I believe that one day, God Almighty will set things right, that I do not have the big picture which only He has. My job is to do the good that I can do, now, for the people around me especially my family, my neighbours. In the depth of my heart, I know there are many, many men and women out there who focus on doing good, the unsung heroes if you like, who refuse to accept that things are so dreary, so hopeless, that it’s not worth to do anything good. Which brings to mind these words: “If you wait till you’re able to do everything for everybody, instead of doing something for somebody, you’ll end up doing nothing for nobody.” – Anonymous


About Jamilah Samian

Jamilah has written 490 articles.

Jamilah Samian is an author and speaker.

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