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Making Choices in a VUCA World with Burcu Bıçakçı

We know planning our career is crucial. Yet our targets are on the move in this VUCA world. Fortunately, our learning circle speaker Burcu Bıçakçı, Partner at Egon Zehnder, gave us practical tips and inspired us to build out our career and future plans.

VUCA stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. This term is originated from the chaotic and extremely uncertain living conditions of the American soldiers in Afghanistan. Nowadays, when we say, “We live in a VUCA world” we don’t mean that our lives are in danger, instead we mean that “We are surrounded with many variables that we can’t really predict or control. Burcu started her talk by saying, “When we live in a VUCA world, long-term planning is losing its validity and force. Companies plan for shorter periods where everything is relatively more stabile and expectable.”

“We are in the age of best and in the land of now.” Today we have the desire to get the best as fast as possible. We satisfy this need of the “best and now” by mechanization and digitalization, which will result in many jobs being replaced by automation in the near future. In a developing country like Ethiopia, 85% of jobs have the risk of being replaced by machines. Even huge economies such as China and India are facing a high risk of replacement - 77% and 69%- respectively. The reason is that, these countries have the majority of the workforce in mechanic jobs, which can be easily done by machines. When we look at the U.K., we see that the percentage goes down to 35%.

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In the “best and now” world, staying relevant and not losing our jobs in the future is the main concern. What can we do? The World Economic Forum’s Future Work Force reports list future of work skills and competencies- to name a few: creativity, initiative taking, critical thinking, analyzing, leadership and social abilities. These abilities cannot be automated in the near future. Leaning towards these strengths would be a great way to remain relevant in the VUCA world and to build up our careers.

The businesses face other challenges. Unfortunately, the pace of talent development cannot compete with the rapid developments of AI and machine learning technologies. Humans are simply not capable enough to learn and develop as fast as the machines. With the rise of new jobs every year, finding people with past experiences for a specific job is not always possible. The only way to hire adequate employees for these positions is by finding people with potential and interest to learn.

The good news is that rising and shining in this ever-changing VUCA environment is up to us! First things first: Don’t deny or fight the change. It’s inevitable, so just embrace the culture of agility. Second step: Always find new ways to develop your skills. The key is to never pause your self-development and life-long learning process.

As we all know, digitalization is the present and the future. Most companies are seeking digital talents that can keep up with the change, are open to new ideas and different opinions, and are active learners without big egos. In the recruitment process, the digital abilities and the natural curiosity of the candidate are carefully assessed. Being passionate in some areas or having hobbies will show the interviewer your interest in learning- clues she is looking for. A great book to check on your company culture and your leadership agility is “14 Leadership Principles of Amazon.” Here are some spoilers: Learn and Be Curious, Hire and Develop the Best, Insist on the Highest Standards, and Think Big.

Companies are evaluating if the candidates are digitally capable while questioning whether they are digital enough. Burcu says that the answer lies in the potential of the employees. The culture of innovation, the idea and creativity cultivation in the office environment and the ability to create “change leadership” are the key indicators of your potential.

The digital native generation will rise in their careers soon. Companies face the challenge of having many generations with completely different mindsets at the workplace.

In the past, we were supposed to have deep expertise in one area. Now, we are expected to have an opinion on everything.  Stay current and keep up with the changes in your sector and the world. Finally, take a deep breath, embrace change and keep on learning. This new world is yours to make!

Thank you, Burcu Bıçakçı, for this thought and hope evoking learning circle. We also thank BASF Türk Kimya, our gracious corporate member, for hosting us. See you at our next Learning Circle!

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