BANI world: reality seen through another lens

22/11/2023 | Santander Universidades

Perhaps you recall the meme that went viral after the pandemic in which aliens patiently wait for it to be their “turn” to invade the Earth. This is, of course, purely satirical, but if recent events are anything to go by, then it would seem that anything could befall us. It is in this context of chaos and confusion that the BANI world concept emerged.

After all, at the beginning of 2020, no one expected to face a global health crisis. And much less that, two years later, just as society was regaining its footing after a long string of lockdowns and restrictions, a war of colossal magnitude on an international scale would break out between Russia and Ukraine, bringing with it further inflation and market volatility. This is in addition to all the local crises or major environmental disasters caused by climate change that make the headlines every single day.

The socio-economic reality is changing faster and in more unpredictable ways. Are you ready to face this new BANI world? Find out what you are up against and how to adapt to this new era of turmoil.

What is the BANI world? 

BANI is an acronym that was coined by Jamais Cascio in his 2020 article, Facing the Age of Chaos, as a means “to better frame, and respond to, the current state of the world”. Cascio explains that the VUCA framework no longer adequately describes the world we live in. Despite denoting a state of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, things have become so chaotic and confusing in recent years that they have pushed the boundaries of what was previously known, rendering the VUCA concept increasingly obsolete.

Cascio goes on to state that nowadays, in the BANI world, the conditions of situations are not simply unstable, they are chaotic. And that the outcomes, further than being difficult to foresee, are now completely unpredictable. In this sense, situations are not only ambiguous but downright incomprehensible. “The BANI framework offers a lens through which to see and structure what’s happening in the world. At least at a surface level, the components of the acronym might even hint at opportunities for response”, observes the Institute for the Future fellow.


What characterizes the BANI world?

As you can see, the BANI world is characterized by constant change and adversity. But to better understand its characteristics, let’s take a closer look at each of the elements that make up this acronym:


Brittleness means that despite the apparent robustness of today’s world, even the smallest of changes can have a significant impact on its systems and cause them to crumble. In other words, although the world continues to spin as if all were well, this is a false illusion of strength, which increases the risk of failing to notice when the edge of collapse is near. Nowadays, things do not fall gradually like a house of cards; they shatter like a crystal glass. 


Anxiety is widespread in the BANI world. The succession of calamities in recent years has left people, companies and institutions in a constant state of unease about what might come next. This is exacerbated by the media, which saturates the public with information and exposes them to a constant stream of sensational headlines, fake news, pseudo-scientific articles and so on. Anxiety interferes with decision-making and leads to knee-jerk reactions or passivity, depending on whether it produces impulsivity or blockage in the individual.


The BANI world does not follow predictable linear patterns. Events and changes can occur in non-sequential and surprising ways. It is as if the usual cause-and-effect mechanism has disappeared, at least in terms of human foresight. As a result, actions that are set in motion can lead to completely unexpected outcomes. 


We live in the information age. In fact, according to a study by Digital Economy Compass, content generation will exceed 2,142 zettabytes by 2035. The sheer volume of data has led to a state of information overload, where it is very difficult to distinguish between what is important and what is superfluous. All this noise, other than overwhelming, also complicates the decision-making process.


How to prepare for a BANI world?

Put in these terms, things may look rather bleak. There is no doubt that the prospect of a BANI world is intimidating. However, there are steps you can take to prepare yourself for this new context. 

  • Resilience. The brittleness, or fragility, of the BANI world, highlights the importance of resilience. You need to develop the ability to adapt quickly to change, anticipate potential risks and bounce back from failure. As you advance through the game of life, sometimes you will come across a snake instead of a ladder —here it is essential to take it on the chin and continue forwards.

  • Collaboration. This is a prime way of dealing with anxiety in the BANI world. By strengthening your organisational and personal structures and working collaboratively, you can share knowledge and harness that collective intelligence, rely on others in times of uncertainty and deal with adversity more effectively. Building strong networks and strategic alliances is key to overcoming this state of anxiety and promoting stability.

  • Innovation. The non-linearity of the BANI world demands constant innovation, both within organisations and on an individual level. You must be willing to challenge existing norms, develop new approaches, seek creative solutions and adapt to new ways of working. Only through this constant iteration can you stay afloat in an unpredictable world.

  • Empowerment. Finally, the incomprehensibility of the BANI world can be tackled through better preparation and a spirit of lifelong learning. This means investing in improving your skills and knowledge, enhancing your professional development and keeping abreast of the latest trends. This is essential to make informed decisions and take advantage of opportunities as they arise.


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