If you dont know what BANI means, this is the post for you…

Romell Avendaño
6 min readOct 9, 2023
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Reading is one of my favorite streams for inputs: blogs, books, news, magazines, and Medium, of course. ;)

A couple of weeks ago, when I was submerged into a fascinating article reading from Harvard Deusto (Management & Innovation) from September 2023 (the Spanish Edition), I found a term I’d never heard before: the acronym BANI.

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I found the term while reading an article about cultural organization from a University professor called Jorge Betzhold. In general, that article explains (in a very clever way, I think) how the construction of a narrative based on a metaphor can support and help not only the understanding of certain situations but also how specifically the organizations can take advantage of this narrative and set a shared understanding and actions that can help to navigate through this.

I am not going too deep into each metaphor, but I was reading the third metaphor when the acronym BANI was shown.

Straightforwardly, BANI is a term used to describe the world or, in this case, specifically, to describe the organization.

BANI is the acronym for:
- Brittle
- Anxious
- Nonlinear
- Incomprehensible.

“Okay, I get it, it’s straightforward, but……wait? It’s not the same thing that VUCA? “
Well, it’s not. Let me explain.

In a general way, VUCA and BANI are terms that can be used to describe the world, and for the “world” I mean a specific situation, system, a particular environment or ecosystem, or scenario….or actually, the world. In a few words, it’s a framework, so it can be applied to multiple situations because it’s a framework. :)

“Okay, okay, I understand. So, BANI is the new VUCA, right?
No, it’s not.

First, it’s essential to understand that VUCA and BANI are not twins; at least, they were not born at the same time, not even in the same century. VUCA comes from the military environment used to describe a world post Cold War, and that period ended around 1990 with the fall of the East Block and the Berlin Wall; however, the acronym was so helpful that the corporate and business world adopted it. BANI comes from its creator, Jamais Cascio, who created this framework around 2020 or a bit earlier.

Secondly, the acronym VUCA stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. So, our brain’s first instinct is to look for patterns and connect the dots, right? And so our brain says: “Okay, four dimensions of one frame and four dimensions of another, Bingo! It’s one-to-one. How easy!” mmm, well, let me tell you that it’s not like that either.

While VUCA helps us describe the conditions and challenges facing organizations today and BANI does, too, so what is the difference?

Let’s analyze the acronym BANI:

B comes from Brittle.

Imagine that one day, like any other, you wake up without water in your home. Mmmmm, okay, that bothers you a little, but well, then you go to turn on the television, but it doesn’t work, there is no electricity and with them, no washing machine, no coffee maker, no game console, no router, and no internet. Do you feel the worry rising? Then you go out on the street, and there is no public transportation, taxis, buses, commercial airplanes, nothing works. Other services such as health, emergency, security, education, etc., have been added. Suddenly, the economy collapses one day, affecting the government and many other institutions. Is Skynet waking up?

Well, Brittle exemplifies how the systems we unquestioningly trust provide us with the services we need, and that work every day suddenly stops doing so. That’s the kind of fragility Brittle is referring to.

How can you handle Brittle?
According to the author, preparation is the best way to deal with it. Be prepared for disaster BEFORE the crisis hits. That means that each system should have a containment plan, a plan B, an emergency plan, or whatever you want to call it. And the key to achieving it is the desire to do it. People, institutions, and governments that actively prepare to develop these plans are ready to implement them when the crisis knocks on their door.

A comes from Anxious.

Remember the scenario just described to refer to Brittle? When many systems we take for granted, and services collapsed. If you replayed this in your mind as you read, you may have started to feel uncomfortable, upset, or anxious. That’s how it is. All these situations indeed begin to generate that feeling of anxiety, but what is anxiety?

A simple term that can describe it could be:

Anxiety is an emotional state characterized by worry, uneasiness, and fear in situations perceived as threatening or stressful, even if the threat is imaginary or exaggerated.

How can you control anxiety?
This type of situation requires empathy. It is essential to put yourself in the shoes of others when systems are broken or affecting people.

I believe, that empathy is an action of human kindness that certainly takes place here. Still, empathy without action can generate hopelessness, which is why systems MUST have these action plans. It is essential that people feel supported when they are going through a bad time, but even more important is to give them the tools or options to help them overcome that situation, not only words.

N comes from Nonlinear.

There are systems around us. Some are very “transparent” to us, everyday things. They do not represent a problem. Some are very predictable; others are particular and elaborate and require more of ourselves to be able to navigate or understand them, but there is another league that drives us crazy.

Simple systems can be easily understood because the number of parameters a system can have is limited, and the number of responses or behaviors is also limited. It is predictable, and that gives us a feeling of control.

But most of the systems that govern the world are not linear equations. They are very complex, in complex situations, difficult to predict, with multiple variables, unexpected behavior, or worse, with unknown parameters everywhere in a very chaotic situation. with totally unpredictable results. Goodbye feeling of control.

For example, The Ukraine conflict increased wheat prices in Chile, which impacted the price of bread, a country on the other side of the world. I don’t know for sure, but I think this isn’t easy to predict.

How can nonlinear mode be managed?
The author states that for these types of situations, the key must be the ability to adapt to changes. Here is something that the author expresses that catches my attention: people should NOT be limited to a set of options. And that makes all the sense in the world because if you are in a situation that you can identify as a BANI situation, obviously, the options that you usually have may not work in the same way or may not even exist anymore, so you will need to take different actions to overcome the crisis, things that perhaps under no circumstances would have occurred to you before.

I come from Incomprehensible.

In VUCA, when it refers to “ambiguous”, it indicates that despite having a lot of information, it is still challenging to obtain a clear image of the situation, so we have multiple possible scenarios or hypotheses. For BANI, this situation is much more extreme, to the point of being incomprehensible due to misinformation, bad news, fake news, and little transparency. This factor works as a catalyst that accelerates nonlinear systems, making them even more incomprehensible and unpredictable and further weakening the systems we trust.

Final thoughts.

BANI and VUCA are valid and valuable frameworks to describe different scenarios about the world, a situation, a company, an ecosystem, etc.

A key about which framework to select (VUCA or BANI) is given by our ability to identify what we want to highlight in that situation, in that environment. It is about understanding which frameworks could help us best describe that problematic situation and bring it to light to contextualize an environment that allows us to maneuver, understand, and navigate through that situation, searching for a resolution or a guide.

If you need first-hand information about BANI, I recommend the site https://ageofbani.com/

If you like, you can leave me any comments or impressions about my article, it would help me a lot to improve…

Thank you for reading ;)

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Romell Avendaño

Life is a DIY project, that's why I write about technology, innovation, knowledge management, agility and more. Also I'm Obsidian Fan. I'm not a Robot! ;) 🤖