Vuca and Vuca-Prime | Inquirer Opinion
Social Climate

Vuca and Vuca-Prime

/ 12:22 AM December 10, 2016

The acronym “Vuca”—which stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity—was originally introduced by military analysts to describe the state of the world at the end of the Cold War. It took further hold after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. With the world’s economic turbulence in the past decade, the term got popular with business analysts, too. A “Vuca-world” is a world in chaos.

It seems to me that the elements of Vuca also exist in the Philippine political situation today (see “A perspective for NGOs,”).


There is volatility in the administration’s practice of diplomacy by bluster, and its desire for pivots that contradict grassroots sentiments about foreign partners.

There is uncertainty in the creeping reintroduction of authoritarianism, raising doubts about the administration’s concern for genuine democracy and good government.


Last weekend, the administration showed its latest sign of distaste for dissent by informing Vice President Leni Robredo that she was no longer welcome in Cabinet meetings, thus effectively dismissing her from it.

Robredo warns that a plan for Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to win his election protest with the help of a pliant majority of the justices of the Supreme Court has been activated. Yet any move to restore the Marcos family to power cannot be consistent with the administration’s claim to be totally opposed to corruption.

There is complexity in the attempt to elevate the problem of illegal drugs to an existential issue for the state.  Is the President’s credibility unaffected by his rejecting any obligation to explain his order to the chief of the Philippine National

Police to reinstate a police officer accused, by no less than the National Bureau of Investigation, of murdering an imprisoned drug lord?

There is further complexity in the effort for a grand reconciliation with multiple rebel groups, especially those without closure about how they were oppressed in the time of martial law.

There is ambiguity in the advocacy for federalism, with very little guidance as to its desired end and system of transition. Is it self-evident that “a federal system will build a just and enduring framework for peace, inclusive development and good governance” (statement of Sen. Franklin Drilon, calling to order the committee on constitutional amendments, 12/08/16)?

The term “Vuca-Prime” is a short guide for coping with a Vuca-world.  It is the flipside of Vuca. The elements of Vuca-Prime are vision, understanding, clarity, and ability (see Robert Johansen, “Leaders Make the Future,” 2009).


(In matrix algebra, a matrix, or numerical table, is transposed by converting its first row into its first column, its second row into its second column, and so forth—i.e., it is flipped over so that its old rows become its new columns.  The transpose of a matrix named V is written V’, pronounced “V-prime.”)

The idea behind Vuca-Prime is that, for example, volatility can yield to vision; vision is more vital in turbulent times.  Uncertainty can yield to understanding; it is acquired when one stops, looks and listens, and communicates with associates.

Complexity can yield to clarity. By means of a deliberative process, one may make sense of the chaos.  Ambiguity can yield to agility. This is the ability to quickly create solutions, communicate them, and apply them collaboratively.

These are not easy antidotes to simple poisons. It will take tremendous amounts of intellectual, moral and spiritual work to cope with our Vuca-world.

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TAGS: Authoritarianism, leni robredo, politics, Rodrigo Duterte, Vuca
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