Embodying a Future at Work That Is ALIVE: Moving beyond VUCA and BANI

By Claudia Gross and Frank Spencer from Claudia’s emailed Life at Work // Weekly September 21, 2023 and viewable here.

The move from VUCA to BANI expresses an evolution:

  • The world is not only volatile, it’s brittle.
  • People aren’t uncertain,
    they’re anxious.
  • Life is not complex,
    it’s non-linear.
  • Ambiguous is gone
    – the experiences are incomprehensible.

Stephan Grabmeier has visualized the comparison between VUCA and BANI in a brilliant way.

He also wrote about it more extensively – choose your medium: infographic or article.


These three visuals show you the developments in a few words:
from VUCA to VUCA, from VUCA to BANI and from BANI to BANI.

When I first heard about VUCA, I thought that life has always contained these elements. Perhaps humanity has only recently come to fully appreciate the meaning of VUCA, but volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity have been present since the beginning of life on Earth. Additionally, I was unhappy that it is an acronym that originated in the US military during their tenure in Afghanistan.

So I very much welcome the reframed VUCA offered by futurist Bob Johansen. When I heard about BANI, I could relate to the changes it describes. Colleagues of mine, team leaders and team members I coach and consult could immediately relate to it and felt understood. When I heard about the reframed BANI, I felt happy to learn that a plan B, Awareness, no expectations and intuition are potential remedies..

How did you feel about VUCA when you heard about it for the first time?
Have you heard about BANI before?
How does it resonate with you?

One of my main concerns about BANI has been that it could be perceived as so overwhelming that people start feeling helpless, powerless, and hopeless – the exact opposite of what we need to feel during times of uncertainty and transitional eras.

I’ve also wondered how impactful simple acronyms can become in explaining our complex world. Suddenly we were inundated with webinars, articles, conferences, and talks on “the VUCA world.” BANI hasn’t reached that level of ubiquity yet, and I was concerned about its potential effect on the mainstream populace. That’s why I was delighted to hear from a friend and colleague about ALIVE:

“A shift in how we see the world around us and act accordingly requires a vastly different future environment acronym than the seemingly scary VUCAs, TUNAs, and BANIs that drive our present outlook.

Since we’ve learned that we must embrace the change, the uncertainty, and the exponential complexity as elements of unlimited creativity rather than features of torment, it only makes sense that our new acronym would reflect a life-giving dynamism while including the various qualities that cultivate these potential realities.

For this reason, I propose that we acquaint ourselves with the idea of being ALIVE: Abductive, Liminal, Interconnected, Vibrant, and Emergent.

Those qualities may differ significantly from those we are used to presenting when describing the world around us. However, this should be our reaction to a VUCA world if we want to move from extractive to generative futures.”

These are the words of Frank Spencer, the originator of ALIVE.

His free 20-page eBook “Embodying a Future that is ALIVE from Aug 29, 2023, is as timely as it can be. Most probably, you are amongst the first to hear about this concept – yay!

It covers “each element of ALIVE, helping you to better understand how they can help us to embrace new mindsets of transformation in our organizations, governments, and society.”

Without even knowing what ALIVE is about:
How does it feel in comparison to VUCA and BANI?
Which expectations arise when you hear ALIVE?

What could the acronym stand for?


In the following you will find quotes taken from the eBook to illustrate ALIVE:
(mosaic letters by djangoandcoco.com)

A bductive
“The ability to see the world through an abductive lens is vital to recognize the bigger picture and the subsequent unfolding stories in contrast to our present linear systems that attempt to silo, fragment, modularize, and reduce reality to maintain the status quo.”
“Ultimately, an abductive response to the world around us allows us to break free from the mechanical prescribing and “predescribing” of our reality and opens us to the unlimited possibilities of generative change.”

L iminal
“We truly appreciate the richness of residing in liminal spaces when we embrace volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity as vital to life-giving futures. This quality is closely related to the organic process of transformation — an experience that underpins the growth of all living systems.”
“Being liminal is not something we endure; instead, it’s a natural state of transformation we must constantly seek in our unfolding journey of higher-order purposes.”

I nterconnected
“There’s not a single thing that happens in any realm, be it economically, technologically, environmentally, or socially, that doesn’t have short, medium, and long-range ripples that change the course of history — past, present, and future.”
“In other words, the interconnected mind thinks and acts in ways that transcend the limitations of organizational development, governmental security, or social cohesion and directs us to imagine holistic models and metrics that elevate our purpose beyond the silos of any VUCA, TUNA, or BANI framing.”

V ibrant
“Beyond the dictionary definition of “pulsating with life, vigor, or activity,” the idea of a vibrant world can only be fully understood from the deep intertwining of biological, psychological, and sacred perspectives. Though every element in the ALIVE acronym is essential to gaining a comprehensive understanding of a transformational view of futuring, this specific element adds the “spiritually scientific” dynamic that we often overlook, disparage, or ridicule in our attempt to make sense of the world.

“Leaning into vibrancy is intentionally practicing the skill of sense-making and embracing that the wavelength of life exists as a more extensive source for us to cooperatively tap into instead of being a function that we produce through pure machine-like rationality. Such a perspective allows us to more fully comprehend the living internal and external experience of imaginative novelties and alternative possibilities — or the vibrancy of the cosmos around us — to co-create transformational realities.”

E mergent
“Emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions. it emphasizes critical connections, authentic relationships, listening with the body and the mind. In emergence, the whole is a mirror of the parts.”
“Emergence suggests that foresight is about much more than the future changing — it’s about the changing the nature of the future.”

While these descriptions are quotes taken from the eBook, on page 16 you can find the author’s overview of them. Check it out!


How do these five elements of ALIVE (Abductive, Liminal, Interconnected, Vibrant and Emergent) resonate with you?
Which new insights and foresight do they spark?
Imagine your team and organization were guided by ALIVE instead of VUCA and BANI; how differently would you collaborate, and offer services and products?


Frank Spencer closes his 20-page eBook with these words:
“Using Futures Environment Acronyms such as VUCA, TUNA, or BANI can help those who are new to the concept of futuring to understand the reaction of our linear and mechanical systems to the impact of exponential change, but leaving the masses in those responses does little good in creating a world of adaptation, resilience, and transformation.
Once the stage has set around our collective trauma, it’s time to aid in the transition to a practice of expanding consciousness, regenerative design, and human potentiality. Let’s help one another to embrace what it means to be ALIVE.”

How alive are you at work?
How ALIVE are you at work?
How could you and your colleagues increase your aliveness and ALIVEness?
What is your elegant next tiny step in this direction?

So here we are.
Embodying a Future at Work that is ALIVE: Moving beyond VUCA and BANI. so that one day, our actions can be truly generative.


And the questions remain:
What old, traditional ways of working and collaborating can die?
What new, innovative ways of working and collaborating are ready to be born or are already alive and ALIVE around us?
Do we continue to be parts of the system strengthening the problem or participants supporting the solution towards a new way of working, towards the HUMAN future of working and collaborating?


The choice is ours, and the consequences too.


Imagine the HUMAN futures of working and collaborating already doing their magic in your workspace TODAY.

Republished with permission.

Featured Image, block quoting, and some paragraph spacing added by Enlivening Edge Magazine. Image by Rafixx from Pixabay