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BANI World: What is it and Why We Need it?

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So far, the VUCA concept has been the prime explanatory framework for the challenges in our daily lives. Some time has passed since the concept was created in the 1980s – are we still living in such a system almost 40 years later or BANI World is taking over?

How do we cope with the challenges of an overwhelming new world, which is uncertain, complex, and ambiguous? That’s where the BANI world comes into play. Everything you need to know about the new model is outlined in the following sections.

The Age Of Chaos: Why We need BANI?

In an increasingly chaotic world, the level of economic and social uncertainty is on the rise.

We are witnessing so many uncertainties and main global challenges such as a new Cold War, global warming, climate catastrophes, and above all we are stuck in the middle of the biggest health crisis that puts our lives on standby.

As creatures of habit, humans struggle with uncertainties and changes. Our brains are programmed to recognize patterns and well-distributed structures.

How should we behave in such a world, where old patterns seem to crumble while new systems still need to be established? How can one manage to stay mentally healthy despite all this chaos?

The first step to salvation is knowledge. There are already quite a few models which aim at understanding chaotic patterns. The previous VUCA model is already outdated.

For this reason, the author and futurist Jamais Cascio proposes a new model in his recent article “Facing the Age of Chaos“, named BANI in order to describe complex changes.

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From VUCA World to BANI World

Before we take a closer look at the BANI concept, it is necessary to understand why we don’t live in a VUCA world anymore.

VUCA is a model, which explains disruption and is widely used in the business world. The VUCA acronym stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous.

The VUCA concept was first published by the US Army War College in the late 1980s as a response to the collapse of the USSR to suit the new circumstances of a post-Cold War world. At the beginning of the new millennium, the VUCA concept was transferred to the business world.

What made sense yesterday may not make so much sense today. In the meantime, corporate culture has drastically changed, and it has become increasingly essential to face a new challenge that lies ahead. In times, in which digitalization has become commonplace, we have adapted new skill sets and tools to keep pace with volatility and to capture complex systems.

As an explanatory model, the VUCA environment is no longer sufficient to explain new business models, the current challenges for companies, and also for society as a whole. A new thought model is required to cope with a changing world. This is where the BANI concept enters the stage.

Related: https://digitalleadership.com/blog/vuca-world/

What does the acronym BANI Stand for?

  • “B” Stands For Brittle
  • “A” Stands For Anxious
  • “N” Stands For Non-Linear
  • “I” Stands For Incomprehensible
BANI World
BANI World

The BANI Framework

Brittle:

Brittle replaces Volatility. Our world is not just volatile. It has turned out that rapid change is a big problem especially when the system is inflexible. Brittle is exactly the right word to describe this condition: A brittle system usually looks very stable, but becomes porous and breaks over time, mostly unexpected.

The consequences of such a brittle system are worsened by the surprise factor. A brittle system can give the impression that it is strong and sturdy, but a critical point of failure can lead to a sudden collapse with devastating consequences.

This is caused by two factors:

1- The relentless pursuit of profit and maximizing efficiency comes at the expense of other equally important factors. This is often overlooked by organizations and their executives. Thus, for example, a lack of employee relations can lead to a shortage of skilled workers, which in turn makes the system brittle from the inside out. This is where emotional intelligence and more company empathy play an important role in structured organizations.

2- The lack of willingness to put up with brittle factors inside an organization. Those gaps in the system are often overlooked, willfully ignored, or cannot be remedied because of a lack of skills and knowledge.

An increasingly interconnected world means that a brittle system can have enormous consequences. A failure of an important structure can then lead to a whole series of failures. One example is the world financial crisis of 2007, which shows that present symptoms today can lead to a global snowball effect. This is why adopting well-distributed structures has become even more important.

Anxious:

Anxiety reflects Uncertainty. It involves fear that something significant can break away at any time. Anxiety is a way to safeguard security. An uncertain system therefore can therefore generate immense anxiety.

An anxious world leads to a passive attitude. Anxiety causes us to become more risk-averse, which influences a person’s ability to function in an individual or business context. Fear and anxiety are not at all helpful, as we tend to refrain from taking the necessary responsibility or engage in obsessive analysis. This fear of action can also turn into a constant feeling of despair, which negatively influences the decision-making process.

In addition, our media speaks in a particular language that is designed to promote fear. Reading positive news stories is becoming increasingly difficult. We receive tons of bad or fake news. Bad news or related posts leave not much room for positivity, but instead, constantly foster new feelings of anxiety.

As most of us are pessimists by nature, as this attitude preserves us from harm, this kind of risk avoidance can be cumbersome if we want to create new innovative future scenarios and technological progress (artificial intelligence, data science, big data, just to name a few).

Non-Linear:

Non-linearity is not a continuation, but an addition to complexity. The reason is simply that the systems in which we live and work are extremely complex. This means that in these complex systems, the link between cause and effect is not always given.

All too often we are making sense by assuming that A leads to B, which in turn leads to C. But this is not the case. We can’t only take B for one reason, as most of the time an entire construct and synergies lie behind a consequence. In the same manner, A also does not inevitably lead to a single effect but can result in multiple destinations.

This means that the measures taken can’t be linked to the result in a recognizable or predictable way. Big efforts show no effect or small decisions have a massive impact.

Let us take global warming as a prime example: The period between cause and effect is so great that we can hardly comprehend the connection. Even if we stopped most present symptoms from today onwards, the effects on the climate would not be felt immediately, but also for entire generations after us.

Incomprehensible:

Incomprehensibility is ultimately the consequence of our non-linear world and goes one step further than ambiguity. The developer of the BANI concept cites an example from software development. In this example, there is a code that does not fulfill an explicit function and would, at least in theory, be redundant. However, if you remove this code, the program crashes or can’t be installed anywhere. There is no conclusive explanation.

Understandability leads to orientation and clarity, which is central in times of change. Further, it diminishes surprise, which intensifies the subsequent effects. A crisis, which is not completely unpredictable and that does not surprise us, has a weaker impact on us. Understandability, therefore, ensures that we can at least cognitively take a step towards solution.

When something is not understood by us, it tends to be overwhelming. Incomprehensibility is a product of today’s flood of information or information overload. The bright spot, however, is that something we don’t understand today does not necessarily mean that we cannot understand it in the near future. We can actively create understanding by establishing a collaborative culture with sufficient transparency. As the Corona crisis has shown us, however, this is easier said than done.

BANI meets with RAAT

How can we live in a chaotic world that is characterized by brittle, fear-triggering, non-linear, and incomprehensible systems? How can we successfully meet these challenges and face stress in a healthy way? Jamais Cascio also aims to find answers to these questions. Or at least an answer as to how we can respond to the factors inside the BANI context.

This is where RAAT comes into play. RAAT stands for Resilience, Attention, Adaptation, and Transparency. Let us now take a closer look at these factors.

Resilience against brittleness

In contrast to fragile foundations, a resilient one not only manages to withstand external pressure but also manages to return to its original state more quickly. A porous, outdated, and inflexible system breaks down. If organizations possess a high level of organizational resilience, they can overcome challenges much more successfully. In this context, resilience describes the ability to return to the original state quickly and without permanent damage.

Attention against anxiety

Dealing with anxiety is a great way to cope with challenges. You can regulate your own worries or anxieties when you are in an uncertain situation. This will stop the horror scenarios in your head and increase your ability to act. If you do not allow yourself to be paralyzed by fear of making wrong decisions, you can also effectively make the right ones.

Misinformation, exaggerations, pseudoscience, or even fake news are the biggest fear drivers of today’s world. If we pay close attention to what we listen to and what we spread, we can meet this new characteristic of anxiety with clarity and self-awareness.

Adaptation against non-linearity

We can adapt to different situations and think and act accordingly. We are dependent on our adaptability in order to function in a non-linear world. If results are not to be calculated, we try in vain to derive effects from causes.

The best strategy here is to adapt. While rigid plans tend to cling to a particular outcome, flexibility allows you to adapt no matter what the outcome will finally look like. It is much more about how the new situation can best be used.

Transparency against the incomprehensible

Transparency is an effective remedy against incomprehensible behavior. When so little intelligibility is associated with equally little meaningfulness, mental health, satisfaction, and readiness to act tend to decline.

This is especially true in a standardized structure in which knowledge is rather used as a status instrument. However, knowledge alone is also not an appropriate solution. For functioning knowledge management in the company and also in private life, it takes sensible filters to be able to process the flow of information.

What good are acronyms like BANI and VUCA?

Even the founder of the acronym states that the above approaches are rather reactions than actual solutions. Nevertheless, such word creations can remind us where to start. In addition, they enable us to name the feeling of uncertainty and thus create more clarity. Clarity is much needed in these times.

It is certain that everything will change, as systems exist everywhere: be it on a state and economic level or even people’s personal lives and relationships with friends and family.

BANI does not guide developing organizations. It will neither prepare us for change nor deliver all the answers, but it at least can help us understand.

Until a new acronym is needed, we can at least always rely on a quote, which is already over 2500 years old:

The only constant in life is change

“Heraclitus”

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