VUCA skills, VCoL, & the complexity gap

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about VUCA skills, VCoL, or the complexity gap, but it’s the first time I’ve described how they relate to one another. Because this is a first attempt, I’d especially enjoy having your feedback and questions!

The complexity gap

The complexity gap is the distance between the complexity level of our thinking and the complexity of the issues confronted in our personal and work lives. In the 21st century, almost all of us are regularly faced with the complexity gap. Unfortunately, few of us are adequately equipped with the skills required to bridge it.

The first and most obvious way to bridge the complexity gap is to learn optimally. This means learning in a way that gradually increases the complexity and quality of our thinking. This is a good start. But many of the problems facing us as citizens, parents, workers, and leaders are so complex they cannot be fully comprehended by any one individual. So, while developing complex thinking is a good idea, it’s not enough to bridge the gap between human reasoning and the complexity of the thorniest issues we’re likely to face. To grapple successfully with the big issues, we not only need skills for learning optimally (VCoL+7), we need special skills for managing complexity (VUCA skills).

VUCA skills

VUCA skills help us manage Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. They consist of skills for contextual thinking, working with complexity management tools (like systems modeling, system mapping, scrum, agile, design thinking, and dynamic steering), and leveraging diverse perspectives (like perspective seeking & coordination, facilitation, and collaborative capacity).

VUCA skills not only help bridge the gap between the complexity level of people’s thinking and the complexity of issues faced in their personal and work lives, they also improve human interactions, and with regular practice, provide support for optimal development.


VCoL+7 (the virtuous cycle of learning and its +7 skills) is a learning model that’s based on over a hundred years of research into how learning works. It leverages the brain’s natural motivational cycle for learning as well as the unconscious processes that build and prune the brain’s neural network.

VCoL+7 consists of a core learning cycle (VCoL) and 7 essential learning skills. VCoL has four simple, repeated (iterating) steps: (1) set a learning goal, (2) gather information, (3) apply new knowledge/skills in real-world contexts, (4) evaluate the outcome, and (1) reset learning goals.

The +7 skills are required to employ VCoL with virtuosity. Not-so-coincidentally, most of them are also VUCA skills.

VCoL+7 ensures that we learn deeply enough to make what we’ve learned usable. It supports what my colleagues and I call embodied learning. Applied, regularly, VCoL has been shown to accelerate mental development and improve thinking skills—including skills required for managing complexity.

Together, VCoL+7 and VUCA skills will help you bridge the gap.

If you’re interested in learning more about VCoL+7, watch the VCoL+7 lecture, or sign up to receive information about our upcoming course, VCoL in Practice (VIP).