We’re at a Pivotal Time in Human History: Welcome to VUCA MAX

Welcome to the Innovative Leadership Newsletter brought to you by the Innovative Leadership Institute, where we strive to bring you thought leaders and innovative ideas on leadership topics each week.

This week’s article is written by Chris Nolan, is a multiple Emmy Award-winning director, creative director, marketing strategist, branding story expert and author.  It is a companion piece to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Facing Uncertainty:  It’s VUCA which aired on September 6, 2022. 

Short clip from the interview:

Link to the entire interview:

In the mockumentary/rockumentary “This Is Spinal Tap”, the lead guitarist character, Nigel Tufnel, tells the director of the film that he’s gone beyond the loudest setting on guitar amps. Instead of level 10 “these go to 11”.

This, of course, sounds a bit ridiculous. How do you go louder than the loudest setting? But it’s an apt analogy for the crazy world we now live in. A world we call VUCA MAX where the intensity of life has been boosted from 10 to 11. And it’s exponentially accelerating and increasing every day. Both the downside and the upside!

In our recent documentary, called IT’S VUCA: THE SECRET TO LIVING IN THE 21ST CENTURY, we went on a journey to discover the answers to “what you are going through” and to help the everyday person overcome the overwhelm and thrive today and tomorrow.

It features some of the world’s greatest VUCA experts: Generals, elite Navy SEALs, Delta Force commanders, Blue Angels, NY Times best-selling authors, neuroscience experts, leadership gurus, and world-renowned futurists.

VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. It was coined by the military in 1987 to explain the uncertainty of the 20th century and is a very apt way of explaining the conditions and environment of the early part of the 21st Century, in which we were witnessing Moore’s Law – every 18 months the power of technology was doubling –– and transforming the world.

It’s why the smartphone in your pocket is now a million times faster, a million times cheaper, and a thousand times smaller than a supercomputer on the 1970s.

Small wonder, VUCA provided a paradigm for the converging forces of technological disruption and quickly became an essential for leadership strategy in business and the military.



When we started filming IT’S VUCA, right in the middle of Covid, we began to notice the speed of change pick up even more.

A phenomenon predicted by Ray Kurzweil of Google kicked in –– as technologies converge, we must factor in the extraordinary power of exponential growth.

AI, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing, and devices across all industries are exponentially leaping ahead and disrupting society.

As New York Times multiple best-selling author Steven Kotler said in the film “The future is moving faster than you think”.

Way, way, way faster than yesterday’s VUCA.

A world that was already insanely Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous is now on steroids.  Today, the convergence, speed, and disruption are MASSIVE, ACCELERATING, and EXPONENTIAL. Hence, VUCA MAX.

This Hockey Stick graph below says it all:

As a result, and as Ray Kurzweil famously predicts, we will see 100 years of growth in the next 10 years. So, buckle your seatbelts.  And if you think that is warp speed, in the next 100, it’ll be more like 20,000 of growth. For those of you who doubt, Kurzweil has a documented 86% accuracy rate in his technological predictions. Even if he’s off a few thousand years that’s still head-spinning.

It means every major industry on earth is going to be reinvented over the next 10 years. It means there’s more opportunity for people who can master these VUCA MAX conditions than ever before. Which is why, we’re going to see more wealth created over the next decade than ever before in history.

Unfortunately, our evolutional brains have a problem with exponential thinking.  We think linearly, 30 steps = 30 steps. Exponential growth doubles each step. Two (2) becomes four (4), and eight is around the corner; then 16, 32, 64, 128, etc. –– Thirty (30) exponential steps take you to the moon.  In the blink of an eye. change will race ahead beyond our comprehension and imagination.



We are now at a pivot point in human history when change will challenge and push the envelope of our linear biased minds to master this new world.

What does this mean for individuals and organizations?

Firstly, we all need AWARENESS that VUCA MAX is skyrocketing.

As recent stats from the World Economic Forum inform us, since COVID, the crises, uncertainty, and risks have only accelerated. It’s a huge list – from geopolitical, economic, social and climate upheaval, to threats to democracy and to mental health deterioration.

But, along with these mega issues we must keep in mind the mega opportunities.

As my friend, futurist Gerd Leonard explains, “This is a fork in the road moment”.

This uncharted territory calls for a new frontier of human evolution in order to develop our highest human faculties including Vertical Knowing superpowers that are beyond knowledge like creativity, imagination, intuition, empathy, purpose, higher values, beliefs, and greater global consciousness.

Think about it. Your smart phone’s operating system continuously updates while you also upgrade you phone at least every few years. But some people haven’t upgraded their mindsets for decades. We need to keep upgrading our human algorithms as often as we do our technological algorithms.

Since the IT’S VUCA movie, people have inundated us with requests about how to apply the revelations in the film to create new models and stories to keep up with change, gain anti-fragile resilience, higher performance capabilities, foresight, and courage in their lives and leadership endeavors.

People want to know what to do. How do they prepare, upgrade their mindsets and potential in order to succeed in this new human evolution?

As we experienced during COVID, chaos, complexity, and uncertainty can stop us in our tracks and send us into a passive default victim mode. But that’s the opposite of what you need in a VUCA MAX world.

You want to be in creative mode, on the offensive, and super conscious of the abundance and creative opportunities ahead. You want to be able to handle more and more complexity without anxiety and doubt and become anti-fragile as you embrace change and the unknown.

To empower you to thrive in these demanding times, we’ve created an entire VUCA MAX program with specific tools and practices especially designed to help you embrace change and adversity and evolve into the greatest version of yourself.

In a VUCA MAX world, all of humanity is counting on us. And on YOU.

Image from the documentary “It’s VUCA: The Secret to Living in the 21st Century”.



Chris Nolan is a multiple Emmy Award-winning director, creative director, marketing strategist, branding story expert and author. He brings 25 years of branding, writing, directing and production experience in both entertainment and marketing to his content production company, 90,000 Feet –– working for clients such Disney, Google and Toyota.

He recently directed and co-wrote with Mike Schindler, the documentary “It’s VUCA: The Secret to Living in the 21st Century”. Chris and Mike have followed up the film with a book and an extensive leadership and executive coaching program called VUCA MAX.

To preorder the book or for more information on the VUCA MAX program go to https://itsvuca.com or contact Chris at Chris@itsvuca.com.



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Additional Resources offered by our trusted colleagues and partners

Deeper Waters: 9-month intensive cohort experience linking leadership development with personal and spiritual work hosted by ILI Certified Facilitators: April Blaine and Dan Mushalko.

Join Terri O’Fallon’s 12-Month Immersive Group Experience applying the STAGES model to your life.  See how your life experiences have shaped you, understand your influence on those around you, and make peace with the evolving being that you are.  You can learn more about Terri’s work through her podcasts with Maureen.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future via iTunesTuneInStitcherSpotify,  Amazon Music,  AudibleiHeartRADIO, and NPR One. Also, stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute on LinkedIn.

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