Managing innovation when everything around you is moving!

A few months ago we (w/Alexander Brem) were discussing on how do managers make decisions related to innovation strategies with new technologies.

There has been quite a lot of buzz in the last years on new potential disruptive technologies (#3D printing, #IoT, Cryptocurrencies — #blockchain, VR/AR, and many others), when you add this buzz to the already evident impact of digitalisation, you get something that looks quite confusing.

A popular tool to navigate this confusion is to use the VUCA framework. VUCA stands for: Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. Bennett & Lemoine wrote a brief article at HBR that aims to give a short overview on how to better grasp what type of situation you are in. The idea is that by knowing which is the dominant dimension that is affecting your innovation decisions, you might be able to have a better answer on how to act.

Adaptation from Bennett & Lemonie (2014) — VUCA dimensions article

But what does each dimension mean?

  • Volatility: we observe more frequent shifts, unstable value of prices that fluctuate sharply. Innovation executives perceive the changes to be unexpected and of unknown duration, but they can understand them and get information about them, and their evolution.
  • Uncertainty: it becomes more difficult to predict the future, the models that were useful in the past show limited reliability nowadays. Innovation executives find that it is increasingly challenging to clearly assess a situation and predict when and how events will unfold.
  • Complexity: we operate in an interconnected and networked environment. Multiple options for each decision, and multiple possible outcomes for each action. Innovation executives can be overwhelmed by the number of influencing variables and the volume of information to be processed.
  • Ambiguity: it captures the perception of complete lack of knowledge, unprecedented context where unknown unknowns are being faced. Innovation executives experience an absence of clear causal relationships, struggling to interpret clues and organize actions, but there is still a pressure to take decisions and act.

If you are interested in knowing more about VUCA, or how your organization is prepared (or not) to innovate in this context, or what tools you can use to make decisions related to innovation; we cordially invite you to participate in the survey we are currently running (you have the option to leave your email to get in touch with us!).

Access the survey (5 min) at:


  • Bennett, N. & Lemoine, G. J. What VUCA really means for you. Harvard Business Review (2014).
  • Mack, O. & Khare, A. Managing in a VUCA World. Managing in a VUCA World (Springer International Publishing, 2016). doi:10.1007/978–3–319–16889–0