How an Artist Captured the Essence of VUCA and Talent Management Agility

I was asked to deliver a keynote presentation complemented by an executive panel discussion on "Leadership in a Dynamic World" at the annual Investment Program Association (IPA) Conference in Chicago this past week.  

Oh, I might also add that the audience of about 350 direct investment professionals were also engaged throughout the session through the use of handheld rating devices that enabled immediate analysis of the questions asked of them.  

This was a daunting task since I was to be followed by Austan Goolsbee, former Chief of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors.  

Therefore, we stacked the deck with an executive panel consisting of 5 CEOs and EVPs of highly respected firms in the direct investment industry.  Throughout my 90 minute presentation, I facilitated the panelists’ responses to questions that I had assembled which included:

  • What would our dream testimonial from a customer say?
  •  Do you match how you spend your time with your key priorities? Do you even know how you spend your time?
  • Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you. Why and how did this person impact your life?
  • How do you ensure your organization and its activities are aligned with your “core values?”
  • What is the one behavior or trait that you have seen derail more leaders’ careers?
  • What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
  • It’s 2025 and we’re the best company to work for in the world: What two things did we do to earn this award?
Nick "The Agility Doc" Horney, Ph.D., (left) facilitating a panel discussion at the 2015 Investment Program Association conference. 

Nick "The Agility Doc" Horney, Ph.D., (left) facilitating a panel discussion at the 2015 Investment Program Association conference. 

The graphic illustrated below represents the work of an artist from the Ink Factory who captured the essence of our entire session during the presentation/discussion.  As you can see, it captures many key aspects of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) that are represented in the direct investment industry.  

The artist also captured the key messages about actions to adapt and thrive in this VUCA environment through proactive talent management initiatives which include:

  1. Identification of the competencies needed for a turbulent, VUCA business environment
  2. Proactive approach to the identification of high potential talent for key future business leadership roles
  3. Accelerated development of those identified as high potentials
  4. Complement internal talent development resources with external developmental experts   

If you were an artist and created a graphic that represented the VUCA and associated talent management actions for your business or industry sector, what would it look like?

About Nick Horney
Nick Horney, Ph.D. is The Agility Doc. He first discovered the value of agility during his 23 years of service as a special operations naval officer responsible for diving and explosive ordnance disposal teams. In these rapidly unfolding and changing circumstances--and now, as an organizational psychologist--Nick discovered that the key ingredient separating good leaders from best leaders is agility. After serving in a senior role at the Center for Creative Leadership, he founded Agility Consulting and Training in 2001. Learn more about Nick at