Develop Your Agility

Published by Ann Horn on

Agility is the ability to respond quickly and creatively to change. Changes in the world around us arise at an ever faster pace, occasionally enforced by world-changing crises. Agility will be a valuable capability for both leaders and associates to navigate increasingly unchartered waters.

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Everyone faces change in different ways. Some immediately see opportunities and are quick to change, both themselves as well as their situation, to create alignment to the new conditions. They are relatively few, maybe not even 5% of all people. Slightly more people deal with the changes, i.e. they can keep up with changes that others create. The majority feel subject to change and take much longer to accept it, some not at all.

It is possible to develop your own ability to flow with change in order for new circumstances to become something you can benefit from, or even thrive on, rather than something you have to submit to.

Here are some things that you can do.

Turn off the autopilot

Hasty conclusions happen easily and may go unnoticed. A large part of the thought processes that take place in the brain happen on autopilot, and we should be grateful for that. Imagine if we consciously needed to think through every single everyday activity we undertake. We would not get much done. The autopilot is a friend as long as it is dealing with familiar activities under known conditions.

However, the autopilot is not useful when you encounter a situation that requires novelty. 

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Become aware
In order to become agile you need to first become aware that you have automatic thought processes and that it’s OK since you have the ability to create new thoughts.

Suspend judgment
It also makes it easier if you can refrain from treating changing circumstances as good or bad – they are just changes. When the autopilot is engaged, you will quickly determine how you feel about what is happening, regardless of whether you are aware of those feelings or not. To be agile you need to be aware that this happens and that it is OK, since it is possible to change. 

Check in with yourself
When a new, and perhaps undesirable, situation arises, it is safe to assume that you have an opinion.

Start by checking in with yourself: what emotions do the situation stir – name them for yourself. 

What sensations do you have in your body? Where are they located? 

What do you think about the situation and what needs to be done, by whom and when? Maybe you even know whose fault it is? Accept that you think and feel like this. Then stop this process – it can always be resumed if necessary.

Now that you are more aware of what is going on inside you, it is time to widen your view.

Expand your horizons

By getting to know the new situation better, you will understand what the real problem is and through that understanding find different and suitable solutions to face it. 

Use multiple perspectives
Examine the situation unconditionally from several perspectives. There are an infinite number of perspectives but we can summarize them in 1) yours, 2) others’ and 3) purely objective (factual).

Start with a white paper (literally or figuratively) and obtain information from as many sources as possible. Get help from colleagues and other people to paint as nuanced and rich a picture as possible.

* Listening is one of your most important tools for broadening your horizons and it can be used both inwards and outwards. Listen with “clean ears” by:

* Paying attention not only to the person you are listening to but also to yourself, your body language and your mood.* Watch out for hasty conclusions! Remember the autopilot – if necessary, stop your thought process.

* Reflect, recount in summary what has been said to make sure you understand the point.

* Ask open-ended, clarifying and exploratory questions to dive deeper into the subject.

* Summarize main headings.

For the sake of clarity, “to listen with clean ears” means to take in information unconditionally, without any consideration or judgment to the best of your ability. Imagine that you are a beginner who has no knowledge of the subject.

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Get it down on paper
Document your insights by writing them down, drawing, taking photos, recording yourself or in some other way, as long as you document them, otherwise they will disappear from memory. Based on your insights, formulate the real problem.

Create something new

Based on the real problem, start generating ideas for solutions, for example by brainstorming on your own or together with others.

Some tips for successful brainstorming:

* More is more – come up with as many ideas as possible.

* Do not censor – everything is invited!

* Crazy ideas are desirable.

* Listen – inwards and outwards!

Creative people are characterized, among other things, by the fact that they easily generate many and different ideas. Also, they do not care that others think they are different. Allow yourself to be creative – just because you hatch ideas does not mean you have to implement them.

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When your creativity is exhausted and no more ideas come up, it’s time to sort and develop. The brainstorming ideas are “raw”. By working with them, they can develop into something new. Examine the relationships between the ideas, are there any similarities, opposites, etc.? Group your ideas to get an overview.

Here are some examples of idea development:

* Replace

* Combine

* Customize

* Modify

* Enlarge

* Alternative uses

* Eliminate

* Move – turn upside down, inside out, mirror, etc.

Play with the ideas and find different ways forward. Allow yourself to play freely – different has great value!

Act differently

Being agile means that you dare to act. Maybe your ideas are not perfect, but as long as the risk is manageable, it’s time to move on and implement “the different”.

I would say that this is where you see the difference between agile and non-agile people. It is in implementation that the moment of truth lies.

See it as an adventure – challenging, refreshing and exciting. What’s the worst that could happen?

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Stretch your mind for increased flexibility

Agile people have agile minds. What I mean by that is that their thought patterns are easily renewed, they are not stuck in ingrained trains of thought. This makes it easy for them to quickly find new solutions. It also comes easy for them to do differently – both mind and body are agile. Agility can be trained.

Visualize your goal
How agile do you want to be? It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon and say that you want to be agile just because it is the right thing to be right now. Change is only possible if you truly desire it. Ask yourself how far you want to go. Formulate your goal in the present (as if it has already happened) and in first person.

Example: I face changes with curiosity.

Repeat your goal to yourself, preferably every day. Say the words, check in with your body to know how it feels and stay in “goal mode” for at least 60 seconds.

Get to know yourself and your autopilot
When you are “exposed” to change, what happens? Take the opportunity to study yourself. Become aware of what you think, what you feel and any sensations in the body. Put words on the experience, be as specific as you can.

Example: Instead of saying I feel bad, say it makes me sad, I feel overwhelmed, I feel scared.

If you think ‘it’s not possible’, inquire into what it is that is not working and why.

Listen with “clean ears”
The next time you talk to someone, observe yourself. Are you present in the conversation and listening to understand? Or do you listen for the next break so you can share your thoughts? Practice observing your state of being and stop your mind and become fully present with the intention to listen to understand.

Do differently
Study your habits and do something different. Do you usually eat the same thing for breakfast? Switch to something else and make note of what you think and feel about it. Also become aware of how it feels in your body.

Other simple examples are to take another route to work or to wear different clothes. No matter what you habit you change, notice how it feels in your body, mind and heart. 

There are many benefits to meditation. I bring this up because it trains us to observe our thoughts:

* Observe without judgment – they are just thoughts

* Stay quiet, even if it is uncomfortable physically, mentally or emotionally

Meditation also stabilizes our mood, making it easier to face new challenges without emotions running high.

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