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Complexity in the Modern Workplace

There is an acronym that is used to describe the modern world and has especially come to describe the modern business environment. That acronym is VUCA.

VUCA stands for volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.

Focusing on the complexity of this world, many have pointed out just how much more complex things have become in the last few decades. In fact, most jobs in developed countries are now considered to be complex jobs.

Working a complex job requires a level of mental complexity that is in line with the complexity of the job function. However, research also shows that the mental complexity of most people has not kept pace with the increase in complexity of this world.

What that means is that most individuals are not up to the task that we assign them. It’s not an unwillingness, or lack of intelligence, or work ethic. It’s simply that they’re not capable of performing the task that we’re asking them to perform in a complex job.

I think that social media has promoted lower levels of mental complexity, and our culture promotes groupthink that is consistent with lower levels of mental complexity.

That means we have a fundamental need for a qualitative shift in mindset across our communities, our cities, and our nation. Indeed it seems to be a worldwide phenomenon.

So we might ask how do we begin to make this mind shift change so that people are more closely matched to the complexity of life that we all live in? And the answer is something that is called optimal confrontation.

Optimal confrontation means that we are in a developmental environment where we are confronted with difficult tasks that are challenging, but not frustrating to the point of causing us to quit. It also means that we have a network of support to help us think through our growth in these areas and support us.

And this is really my vision for a modern human resources organization. It is one that helps to build deliberately developmental cultures, support networks, and a level of a challenge that helps everybody to develop every day.

This process opens up a huge new world to those who navigate it successfully. The world more freedom, a world that is more restful because we are managing a personal resource more effectively, in the world that increases the opportunities that we face each and every day.

This is my vision. This is my hope. This is how HR can once again become a part of every organization that is people-focused rather than focused on merely enforcing the rules.


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