COVID-19, VUCA and Innovation

COVID has impacted everyone, globally. Courage and innovation are required to thrive in this new environment. How will you pivot this year?

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The COVID-19 situation was nothing I could have predicted.  I took a trip to Chicago in early March to speak at a conference and little did I know that it would be my last business trip for over five months.  When states and cities went into lock down in March and April, I felt the way I think a lot of people felt – worried about getting sick, worried about going to the office (ours never closed) and uncertain about the future.  I felt powerless and in awe that my feeling of freedom could change so quickly.  I’m sure I was not alone in feeling overwhelmed and I want to share with you how COVID-19 has led me to pivot and embrace personal innovation. 

I have learned that the feelings I was having have been defined and simplified into the acronym of VUCA.  First defined in 1987 by Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, Wikipedia states that a VUCA environment includes the following elements:

  • V = Volatility: the nature and dynamics of change, and the nature and speed of change forces and change catalysts.
  • U = Uncertainty: the lack of predictability, the prospects for surprise, and the sense of awareness and understanding of issues and events.
  • C = Complexity: the multiplex of forces, the confounding of issues, no cause-and-effect chain and confusion that surrounds organization.
  • A = Ambiguity: the haziness of reality, the potential for misreads, and the mixed meanings of conditions; cause-and-effect confusion.

My feeling of VUCA was full force through about May.  Then in June, my emotions turned to frustration, anger and at times, full on depression.  I missed seeing people.  I missed work as I had known it.  I missed traveling, both for work and more importantly, during the summer with my family for vacation.  I was in a serious funk and I was stuck in the victim loop.    

I started to get tired of feeling negative and depressed all the time.  I was tired of blaming the pandemic for my problems.  It was time I had a vital conversation with myself about how I was going to get out of the victim loop and back to being accountable for my actions and my happiness.  Thankfully, I had what I believe to be a little divine intervention.  A career coach I had met in Atlanta reached out to me through LinkedIn.  We scheduled a call to catch up.   It was so nice to talk to her, I felt instantly uplifted.  After about an hour of discussing how each of our lives and businesses had been impacted, she said, “When are you going to write a book?”  She also encouraged me and said that I had been courageous in my career, something she is quite familiar with being she was my coach.  I immediately grabbed a sticky note from my desk and wrote down two words, courageous and book.

The note sat on my desk for about a week, but the idea was still floating around in my head.  I had thought about writing a book in the past but had never decided to start.  And then it hit me.  I have all of this “extra time” without the travel for work and lack of vacations.  This is the perfect time to start a project like this!

I started writing.  I captured over 25K words on all kinds of experiences I’ve had and thought others might be interested in as well.  I wrote for most of July and into August.  I also started reaching out to friends in my network who had written books to learn about the process so I could do it the “right” way.  I learned a lot, including that I didn’t really have a clear, defined purpose of my book and what I had written so far.  Knowing this, I pivoted again and decided that before I write a book, I need to put some other content out so I can determine what really resonates with people.  That is when I decided to start a blog. 

Changing gears, I started thinking about and researching blogging.  Again, I found all kinds of free resources on the internet and people in my network who could help me in this journey.  I quickly learned that if I wanted to blog, I would have to establish a website.  Yikes, that was a scary thought!  Was I really going to launch a website?  Yes.  Yes, I was. 

So, the journey began to learn how to find a web host, buy a domain and learn WordPress.  I started a site with a different domain name and pretty much used duct tape and baling wire to assemble something worthy of sharing with a few others for feedback.  I got great feedback from everyone and the common thread was that my site didn’t have a clearly defined purpose and sense of continuity.  Ouch.  That hurt, but they were absolutely right. 

So, back to the drawing board, but now with some powerful resources from my network to help me determine my clear message.  I started fresh, completed templates to help tell my story and made decisions about who I was going to target and more importantly, who I was not.  I bought a new domain and after several calls to my hosting site, Pineapple Courage was born.  

I share this journey with you to say that a pivot takes a lot of courage.  It has been scary.  There were times, especially the first couple days I tried to make my own website that I wanted to quit or pay someone else to do the work.  But I pushed on.  I honed my plan and my pivot through gathering as much information I could from my network and the myriad of free resources available on the web.  Everything but my hosting, domain and some assistance on my newsletter were free.  The rest was blood, sweat and tears.  Ok, maybe there was no blood.  Or sweat and tears.  This was more of a beating my head against the desk situation at times.  But I’m here and I’m putting it all out on display to encourage you to make a pivot too. 

One of the major ah-ha’s for me during my process was something that a friend from work said as he was providing me feedback on my site.  He said, “You have been in the area of innovation your entire career through your roles in research and development.  You’ve also been innovating yourself throughout your career, your married life, becoming a parent and continually adjusting to the changing environment.”  Wow, he was right.  I have been constantly innovating.  You may call it tweaking or becoming different iterations of you, but it is all innovation and it’s the way we reach new levels of success and fulfillment in our lives.  Let’s innovate!


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