Innovating in Times of Volatility and Uncertainty

Innovating in Times of Volatility and Uncertainty

By: Philip Horvath

We live in times of exponential change. In no time in history did we face such tremendous speed and focus on instant access. Things that seemed stable have become volatile. In spite of more data than ever, we are also more uncertain than ever. In the context of planetary integration, we are continuously expanding the complexity of our systems. And in a world of increasing transparency, choices have become ever more ambiguous.

The military had a term for this: they called it VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity).

Originally that term was describing special situations.

Today, VUCA has become the norm and everyone is facing new challenges as a result.

Startups are good at dealing with velocity and uncertainty. They are small and agile and can move quickly to address changing customer expectations. Their world is uncertain to begin with, and they know that they might still have to pivot to create a true market fit.

Large companies are excellent at managing complexity. Organizing complexity is one of the key strength of seasoned managers. So is reducing ambiguity. Ambiguity means risk, and the bigger you are as a company, the higher that exposure. Hence large companies are doggedly focused on reducing ambiguity.

The company of the future will have to be ambidextrous.

It will have to be like a startup and a large organization and address all four elements: have means to move fast (at least on the edges), bear uncertainty and find ever new ways to explore signal, while managing complexity even beyond the company boundaries in ecosystem plays. Finally, they need tools to test for feasibility early and hence reduce ambiguity and risk.

The good new is, there are many great tools available. From design thinking and LEAN principles to Business Model Canvas, we have more and more means to develop new solutions with empathy, efficiency and efficacy.

But none of those tools mean anything, until you can find your feet on the ground.

We have seen companies spend millions on innovation programs, only to be tanked by individual employees who were lacking the personal skills to show up, contribute and collaborate.

In general, in a world of global connectivity, we seem to be more disconnected as individuals, scattered and unfocused and oftentimes reactive instead of responsive.

This will not support success in the world to come, which is why we start there.


CSFA is a cascading framework that can be used for individuals, one-on-one relationships, teams, and even as a baseline innovation process.

It is one of the simplest and most powerful tools available to you in order to deal with VUCA. At any point in time, no matter how crazy the circumstance, you can start with connecting to yourself.

CSFA for Individuals

Connect, and then scan your body, your emotions, your thoughts, your relationships:

How is your body feeling? Start with your feet on the ground, find your knees above your feet, your hips above your knees, feel your belly, feel your back, feel your arms and hands and fingers, check in with your shoulders and your neck, your head and face. There is no need to jump on anything, merely notice what you are sensing. Tensions can relieve themselves simply by paying attention to them.

Then check on your emotions. How are you feeling? What have you been feeling? What triggered you into feeling bad? What triggered you into feeling great about yourself?

What have you been thinking about? What information have you taken in today? How did that information make you feel? What information have you shared today? Why?

What relationships have come up for you today? What people have been in your space, in your thoughts? Is there anyone tugging on you? Any unfinished relationship that needs attention?

The next step after scan is to focus. What needs attention? It might be as simple as a bio break, it might be as involved as clearing a relationship disconnect. Focus on what really needs your care.

And act. Create at least a first action step – and take it.

Grounding yourself in your own center and encouraging your team to do the same is the simplest first step you can take if you want to enhance the creativity, productivity and collaboration of your team.

CSFA for One-on-One Relationships

You can then apply CSFA on multiple levels, e.g in one-on-one relationship, where you can take a moment to connect with each other, then scan for what is up for each of you, focus on leverage and connection points between you, and take action.

CSFA for Teams and meetings

Or, you can use CSFA as a baseline agenda for team meetings: take a few minutes to connect as humans, scan for agenda items, anything that is informational or requires a decision. Focus on the items you need to address, and ensure there are clear next action steps at the end of the meeting.

CSFA as Future Casting framework

Additionally, you can use CSFA as a tool for future casting: connect to the persona of your future customer, connect to their life and lifestyle. Then scan for all the elements of the ecosystem required to support that lifestyle. Focus on a solution you can add to that ecosystem. Create an action step to test for feasibility of your idea.

CSFA is a great first step toward shifting from reacting to being proactive, from scattered, unfocused disconnection, to clear and committed action.

CSFA is the simplest tool we have for managing times of uncertainty. Anchoring in purpose, will support your organization is staying on course as it navigates the rough seas of change. In order to keep your products, processes, and communications relevant, teams also need new cultural competencies for to keep the pace of innovation, as well as new individual capacities for leadership.


Interested in bringing your team offsite for a critical meeting? Workspring is equipped with meeting studios designed with the principles of Steelcase to spark creativity, innovation, and foster greater work outcome.

Contact us to discuss how your team can invite progress! or call at 800 605 9092.

If your team is ready to face change head on and create where others react, lead where others follow, contact us at

Collaboration, Innovation, Insights, Leadership, Productivity