I already knew something about VUCA from having studied, told and worked on it in various sessions both in organizations and in demanding academic environments such as IESE: talking about change, skills in the digital age, a new environment, organizational transformation, the need to understand the context … blah blah blah. As I thought I knew something, I would pry into my life situations to connect them with the VUCA dimensions, like a game.
At Cookie Box we made jokes. Some young millennial members of the team would walk around the office repeating vuca-vuca with intonation that sounded like Swahili and a repeating mantra, when a project was complicated by high doses of added pressure or unexpected changes of direction. I also told this in my sessions as an anecdote, giving the attendees a good reason or excuse to understand what was happening and, without further ado, start the adaptation. It was a way of urging them to learn.
At the beginning of the year, when we considered that we had accumulated sufficient and solvent knowledge and experiences, we began to build the idea of going one step further and making a digital program configuring our own VUCAPeople model. But the project was slowly making its way through everyday life and it wasn’t until February that I began to give it some shape. I have to confess that it did not start from a specific and dedicated intention, it was the result of chance, and the need to insert it within the framework of a client’s project. But this works like this, we do things when we need to do them, being proactive but not preactive.
And then… March came. And while some chronic optimists like me said “don’t exaggerate, it won’t be anything”, without, of course, expecting it or certainly imagining it, we had to confine ourselves in this madness of the viral situation that we all know and that is not the subject of this post. I said back then that, like an insistent rash, we tattooed the hashtag #Istayathome in our lives without knowing how or for how long. There you go! VUCAslap in the face.
At Cookie Box we are lucky in that we are of a liquid culture, we carry it in our DNA. This makes us, in a natural way, adapt to the container and do it, like we use to say: without drama. And not because the situation is not dramatic, and on many levels, but because we prefer to look ahead and not stop. So we found the moment. Or he found us. And I got to work on the programme.
I remember, on the last day of our previous life, that while having breakfast in the sun with Marta Sala, our creative director, we named it. Something simple, that naturalizes the change, that normalizes the solution, that reaches everything and everyone, that is timeless and structural – we told ourselves. I also remember that we were next to the train tracks that run through the Maresme and from time to time someone would pass by, cutting off our views of the sea for a few seconds, forcing us to look at something else. We were preparing the launch of a great face-to-face project. The date of confinement had already been announced. “Change of plans? Change plane” was our title. Already integrating change management.
As I do not want to extend too much I will not tell the details or the sequence of the production of the programme. Only curiosities and learnings with the desire to extract some emotion from the reader. What I can advance is the conclusion: it has been a VUCA experience elevated to VUCA. Everything that surrounded it was highly volatile, highly uncertain, absolutely complex and completely ambiguous. All of it. The context, the media, the channels, the content, the space, the moment… and, therefore and with it, I needed to do it to train my own learning process: fascinating and truly magical meta-learning.
The VUCAPeople model was the only thing that was clear to me: the 4 VUCA dimensions and the 2 skills for each of them. Also, that I wanted it to be a human, close and realistic programme that would achieve a good connection with the participants regardless of their profile and that it was easily consumed and had an impact. This without losing sight of the pedagogical objective at any time and surfing with the limitations of the environment and resources. It was the only clear thing: the vision and, at the same time, the enormous challenge. We will make a fresh and current mini-series of 6 chapters!
With this approach, the main characters had to be normal people, with their conflicts and fears in professional life and also in personal life. OK, next, what about the actors? What about the production team? And the locations? Vuca-vuca, vuca-vuca. Victor is Román Zabal, one of the Cookie Box partners who is a semi-professional actor and whom we exploit whenever we can; Ursula is Marta Sala, our creative director whom I have already spoken about and who has one of the most stimulating brains I know; Cesar is my son Hugo, who I have been fortunate to have around during this confinement as an extraordinary situation since he studies abroad; and Alba, is me, fighting my ghosts for being the center of any public history that is not mine. You see, normal people … in exceptional situations.
Each chapter has been created at its time. During the construction of one, I did not know what would happen in the next one or what plot would accompany it or in what format. All pure experiment and research. Very VUCA. Instead of muffins, I cooked ideas anytime, any moment. I even woke up at dawn because I came up with something that could fit and my intuition told me to integrate it. I have also had some critical times because the create button does not work for me.
A delightful anecdote is that of my father, who is 84 years old and really lively. I would send him and my little sister each chapter at the end. They were my beta testers, even though he didn’t even know what the expression meant. The 5th, Alba’s, took longer (I’ve already explained why), and one day my father wrote me a message reminding me that I owed him. After a smile and the satisfaction for his impatience, I answered that I was quite overwhelmed, that it was not being easy, that sometimes I did not get ideas, that I had no means, that I was tired … his answer was a simple do not be discouraged, which, to tell you the truth, didn’t unblock me at all. The next morning, I had an electronic message from him (because what he sends are not emails) telling me an interesting little battle of his life as a plumber, with the pertinent reflection, in case it served as inspiration. It is a pity that I cannot reproduce it here, I am convinced that it would arouse interest and even some admiration; but I would like to emphasize that after answering him with an intense and immense I love you and working on my own emotional management, Alba’s story flowed.
On this I would also like to comment, in case you have found them credible, that the stories that are told in the programme are inspired by real ones that someone told me at some point or I have lived in the first person. There is no fiction, only adaptation and a huge synthesis exercise that was a good training as well. I have come and gone, enlarged and cut, written and erased, assembled and disassembled, seeking to simplify and to increase the agility of my learning. I can also confirm that austerity enhances creativity.
What should I say about my team? I start with Rocío and Adrián, behind me, keeping up with me, putting up with my mania and responding to my requests: put an icon here, do the typographic review, what do you think of this idea, this excites me, this not at all, come on, it looks cool, give it a spin … inserting me in the middle of their thousand obligations, always ready, always with a gif at hand to make me smile. And Marta, with her creative support, with her miracle gaze, with her insatiable curiosity, thanking me for the role of Ursula, after having completely disassembled her agenda so that she can dedicate a whole day to creating Instagram videos. Marta is one of those people who “give her a thread and she makes it a sweater”. That’s what she did with her character’s graphic resources. I simply told her about Ursula and the sketched story (have I already said that I was creating adhoc?) And she was providing me with the wonderful material that gave life to it. About the rest: my partners, my colleagues, I hold them in a permanent embrace. Giving me space, applauding my effort, keeping the machine going, missing us, finding the moment in its own maelstrom to review, give feedback, validate, encourage, hold and hug again. Thank you very much.
And a few curious things which are rarely told: connecting everything with Denmark was an idea that arose from an error that we decided not to correct at the time – back in chapter 2 – and insert it in the rest so that it would add “spice” to the outcome. The final video with Marta, well wrapped up because she was going into the cold when she was wearing shorts underneath. The hundred versions of Alba’s until I decided to make more of myself instead of imposing and communicating in an authentic and clear way. The calls and audios to David, at many o’clock, to have a hygienic vision of an idea or to give it shape simply by telling him. The freedom to choose and share inspiring resources and make bizarre connections to people’s music, art, and creativity. Feedback from customers who were testing it. The diffusion of the Madrid team, that of the South Zone and even that of Chile. All willing to collaborate, following the pace. The idea of opening it free of charge as a solidarity action in these difficult times for people and companies was unanimously accepted and moved us all.
And also you on the other side of the screen when I was talking to you. Because all this is basically about you and for you.
By the way, have you seen the VUCA skills highlighted in color? Do you remember there are eight and therefore one is missing? Can you tell what it is?
It is agility, which I am not sure has occurred in the process but it has been forceful when deciding to get going to offer something different, enjoyable, simple and, above all, useful to those people and organizations that like us, are encouraged by being in constant evolution.
* This post is part of the eLearning Change of plans? Change of plane, on how to move nimbly in a world characterized by a high rate of change and low predictability.