9.45 AM – 10.30 AM

A Vuca World

45 mins, Morning session

Hatched by the US Military thirty years ago to describe the world after the break-up of the USSR, this alien sounding acronym for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environments has transitioned into civilian life as a model for navigating today’s challenges which demand new and fast ways of seeing and reacting. Can we really prep for anything anymore –  or is this simply an excuse to avoid strategic planning given wholesale unpredictability? Our profession prides itself on its ability to respond in pressing situations; could the VUCA way become more crucial for our organisations in the current landscape?

Timandra Harkness

Timandra Harkness is a science writer, broadcaster and comedian. She has
performed maths standup, presented on Radio 4, and written a book; Big Data:
does size matter?

After performing improvised and standup comedy, hosting cabaret, and touring
with a tented circus, Timandra formed the first comedy science double-act in the
UK with neuroscientist Dr Helen Pilcher.

Now a regular writing and presenting on Radio 4, Timandra has fronted
documentaries such as Data, Data Everywhere, and Personality Politics. She cohosts
FutureProofing, with Leo Johnson, which sees her looking at the future of
everything from language to war, ageing to food. She’s also the resident reporter
on social psychology series The Human Zoo.

Away from the microphone and since winning a competition in the Independent
with a piece on goat-borrowing, she has written for publications including the
Telegraph, Guardian, Sunday Times, Evening Standard, WIRED, Men’s Health and
Significance (the journal of the Royal Statistical Society). Her book Big Data: does
size matter? gives a history of data collection and collation, how it’s changing the
world, and its shortcomings from politics to health to smart cities.

Combining unusual facts with insight and humour, Timandra looks at how the
future will affect business and society. As well as looking at big data, she tackles AI
and robotics, and considers topics around our relationship with science and

On stage, Timandra has appeared in and co-written Your Days Are Numbered: the
maths of death and Science Burlesque, which brought the Cheltenham Science
Festival its first audience that included a hen party.