For any organization, community or institution, now is a unique opportunity to map its strengths and weaknesses and shape the essential capacities to prepare for a VUCA world. The VucaCanvas® framework is the groundwork for easy-to-use canvases, e-tools and (online) workshop designs.

The picture below shows the framework with six capacities. Each capacity is described in further detail in separate canvasses. The capacities are not randomly, they are based on disciplines in science such as evolutionary biology and systems thinking.

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Six capacities shaping viable and shockproof social systems*
(*) social systems are: teams, organizations, social networks & platforms, communities and places


The capacity to easily change direction to suit different conditions is the essence of adaptability. In adaptive organizations, leaders create the right conditions for exploring new approaches, ideas and innovations as the environment evolves. Too often, traditional management sees experimentation as inefficient. Examples of adaptive organizations include Nokia’s evolution from paper manufacturer and tire factory to mobile phones.

[derived from evolutionary biology]


No organization can predict the future. However, 'sensing' organizations are attuned to early signals and patterns that are harbingers of bigger social and economic shifts. They are disciplined about gathering diverse information as input into scenario planning to explore alternative futures and pre-empt potential threats. Shell is a well-known example of an organization that is highly disciplined in taking the pulse of what’s happening in the world and adapting scenarios and operations accordingly.

[derived from systems theory]


Resilience is the ability to absorb shocks and recover quickly to original form. Buffers like surplus resources and 'rainy day' funds are especially important in VUCA conditions where surprises and shocks are frequent. Many large firms overpay dividends to shareholders, leaving them with less to ability to build cash buffers, support workers and reinvest in the business. Reserve Bank of Australia reports that over the past three decades dividend payouts have trended up to more than 80 cents of every dollar of corporate profits. In some companies, dividends payouts have exceeded 100% of profits.

[derived from evolutionary biology]


Connective is an important capacity to interlink within the existing eco- system. Preserving relations with a variety of trusted partners. Carefully thinking about which partners can add to the value creation. Another important element is co-creating collective knowledge within the eco- system. For example, the choice of multiple suppliers in different regions initially seems inefficient but is far more effective for continuity in a crisis. Many countries have suffered the effects of being too reliant on China, for example for PPE equipment.

[derived from systems theory]


Diversity in an organization stimulates adaptability in a rapidly changing environment by enabling the organization to tap a broader range of partners, perspectives, ideas and innovations. Diversity is also about the mix of people in an organization. You need different perspectives when it comes to dealing with complex challenges. Philips NAT lab is a wonderful illustration of how a business consciously cultivates a diversity of ideas and innovations.

[derived from evolutionary biology]


An organization flourishes when people trust and work together on the basis of a clear intention. A group must be able to quickly change direction to determine alternative pathways. When the 'intention' is clear and there’s mutual trust, teams can respond quickly and autonomously yet remain in synch. This is especially vital in a VUCA environment. Buurtzorg is a good example of an organization that has developed this capacity flawlessly. Before the Corona crisis reached the Netherlands, health care workers mobilized quickly to  source masks and other PPE care material. 

[derived from social constructionism]