Behind the Scenes

Working in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA) World

Change is a constant opportunity

The topic of change is a thread that weaves together our feature stories in this issue. It wasn’t intentional, but in retrospect it seems pretty much inevitable because of the extent to which change is a given in the meetings industry and in the larger business world. Change happens in all kinds of ways — creeping up on us without our realizing it, or bearing down on us at a furious pace. Change can be sprung on us without our consent — or can be of our own making, in response to something within our environment that seems just a bit different.

We manage to touch on nearly all of those ways change happens in the meetings industry in this issue. Our cover story centers on the transformations that the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) has made to its annual convention to meet the evolving needs of its attendees in the tumultuous field of biotechnology. Within that story we’ve included short profiles of a handful of conferences that have sprouted up as offshoots of a traditional market (specialty coffee, for example), or that have grown out of high-profile fields (such as fracking).

This month’s CMP Series story has to do with change of a more straightforward kind: Convene Executive Editor Christopher Durso interviewed four convention-center executives to find out what it’s like to take over as the new management for a center. And because existing staff almost always greet a change in management with trepidation, Chris spoke to Managing the Dynamics of Change author Jerald Jellison, Ph.D., to learn how to gain their trust.

While a change in management may be challenging, it’s nothing new in business. It’s those fast-moving technological developments that most of us find overwhelming. Before we know it, technology has altered the way we do business.

For example, I recently read an article in the Harvard Business Review on why the old way of hiring talent — assessing brains, experience, and competencies — is outdated. What we need to look for when hiring staff, the author argues, is potential, because we live in a VUCA environment — VUCA being the military acronym (and now corporate buzzword) for “volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.”

The author identified four qualities that are hallmarks of potential:


1. Curiosity

A penchant for seeking out new experiences, knowledge, and candid feedback, and an openness to learning and change.

2. Insight

The ability to gather and make sense of information that suggests new possibilities.

3. Engagement

A knack for using emotion and logic to communicate a persuasive vision and connect with people.

4. Determination

The wherewithal to fight for difficult goals despite challenges.

Do we have the potential to move the meetings industry forward?

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.