Academy members had the opportunity to listen to inspirational speakers at our World Class Leadership Summit, including Polar Explorer Ann Daniels. Here Justin Hughes shares his experience of being a Red Arrow Pilot and the importance of understanding Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.
I am at an age where Top Gun literally came out when I was at university I signed up, signed up for 12 years. There was no beach volleyball or anything. It was all highly disappointing. The bit you see in Top Gun the kind of flying whizzy jets around, that kind of is the day job but it’s the core functional skill if you like, you have to get to the stage where you can do that bit with about 10 percent of your brain power because actually it’s not about flying the planes, it’s about doing something with it. You need the other 90 percent to operate, to execute a mission or something. You have to sort of drill the basics down to where the fact you can almost do them subconsciously. I mean what it actually looks like is more about this, and you’re dealing with exactly the things we just talked about – ambiguity, imperfect information, lots sometimes not just not enough, sometimes too much, different levels of confidence in the information but that might not be very obvious. More going on more quickly than you can possibly ever rationalise. Ambiguity, imperfect information, fast decisions big consequences. Sound familiar to anybody? When you frame it in that sort of language and you take the pure flying bit out it’s not that different to the challenges that a lot of people and organisations face all the time and you might say, well, yeah, absolutely that’s what life’s like in 2018 this is exactly how life is. These are not new issues. You know somebody thought this fancy VUCA thing a while ago you may have heard of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity. This is not a business school fad from half an hour ago. Organisations have been grappling with this stuff for a long time. The Romans ran an empire where the communication distances times were, you know, thousands of miles, weeks and months. No clear information from the higher authority if you like, from the boss. People highly empowered, dealing with very difficult ambiguous situations and they did this for a long time. Even in 1792 the British Navy had about 600 war-fighting ships – somewhat more than we have now. Hundred thousand people operating all over the globe again without the internet without mobile phones.