A debut guide aims to help young leaders grapple with the uncertainties of the 21st century.
The author takes the title of his book from an essay by David Foster Wallace in which an old fish asks a young fish “How’s the water?” and the latter later wonders: “What the hell is water?” Kian intends his manual to aid young achievers and entrepreneurs not only to be more aware of their “water” (the broader contexts of their world), but also to “lift yourself out of the water and have a fresh look at where you are.” The author, a management consultant at McKinsey & Company in Amsterdam, describes the cosmos facing young leaders as characterized by VUCA: It’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. He describes the “overwhelming sense of a lack of control” that’s created in those who face a VUCA universe. The coping framework he outlines draws heavily on the ancient philosophy of stoicism and seeks to help readers appraise the many upsets an uncertain world will inevitably supply. Without such analysis, Kian writes, “it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of exposure to negativity that you might have through work, social media, email, news, and voice and text messages.” Employing graphs and providing extensive open space for the audience to work out answers, the author lays out clear strategies for readers to capitalize on their strengths, clearly evaluate their weaknesses, and always remember the importance of community. “Especially in a VUCA world,” he writes, “the sense of not being alone serves as a buffer for many challenges.” The book’s advice on matters of communication (the widespread stress factor of the 21st century) is its clearest and most useful, but the whole manual is energetically and invitingly written. Kian’s experience as a consultant is most evident in the many ways he’s devised to assist his readers to become involved in creating their own plans for improvement.
A forceful, engaging program for taking a clear, calming look at an increasingly alarming world.