The other day I was in an event at an engineering company and one of the participants, while discussing V.U.C.A., introduced me to a new acronym that is taking its place, it’s called B.A.N.I.
Let’s start with a key concept: change is an integral part of our lives, a common denominator that we all share.
The term VUCA was born in the late 1980s, when the end of the Cold War was already in sight and an unprecedented horizon opened up without the confrontation between the two great powers. The US Department of Defense developed a vision to describe the new world around four dimensions: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.
From the military world, this term has spread more and more until it has become commonly used in the business world and beyond.
This narrative or metaphor for the world we live in remained valid until 2016, when Jamais Cascio coined the term BANI, which remained in the shadows until a few months ago, thanks also to the global situation that the Pandemic and now the war in Ukraina is leaving behind
What does BANI mean?
Brittle: you know those sandcastles that look so solid and at the first wave they are completely destroyed? This is the kind of fragility referred to here, a real sense of illusory strength.
Anxious: caused by constant change. This anxiety can lead to a need for immobility and being passive when one feels that changes are an avalanche and that there is no way to influence them. To add to that, there is also the “infobesity” we are exposed to thanks to the media.
Nonlinear: the disproportion between cause and effect. For example, today we can see the impact on the climate as a result of actions taken 40 years ago; could these consequences have been foreseen then? There is a big difference between what happens and how we actually perceive it.
Incomprehensible: Incomprehensible is the consequence of information overload and its often counterintuitive nature.
‘BANI’ thus encompasses instability and chaotic, surprising and disorienting situations. The term ‘ambiguous’ is not sufficient to describe the way we experience the world; a better explanation is that our experiences are incomprehensible and generate anxiety.
I believe that by reading these words, even if you are not familiar with terms that relate to the business world, you have found much of the new normal that we are experiencing.
The feelings that are described by these concepts are also the result of the multigenerational and cultural environments that we live in every day and affect our lives in a transversal and vertical way.
Change is here, and it will always be, and we can be a victim of it or actively face it. How?
At the basis lies flexibility, a skill that the pioneer of the theory of evolution recognised as key to the evolution of the species.
Fragility can be addressed with resilience, the ability to get back up with the mindset that falls only make us stronger;
Anxiety can be addressed with empathy and mindfulness. With the knowledge that each one of us has the ability to manage ourselves at all times;
Non-linearity can be addressed with context and insight. It is essential to zoom out from time to time and take a broader perspective.
Incomprehensibility can be addressed with transparency and insight. With communication and openness towards different questions to find different answers.
VUCA and BANI relate to the perceptions and the need we all have to find meaning in the world, and the version that will be accepted will be the one that best relates to our particular view of reality at any given time.
The only certainty is who you are, who we are as individuals and how we train our emotional muscle. The more each person feels solid and centred inside, the more serene we feel that we can handle the challenges that life presents us. And the world is now calling us to do it TOGETHER.