Follow the Energy to Build Your Mental Agility

 

Follow the Energy to Grow Mental Agility

A constant for agile teams, whether on an improv stage or in a collaboration session, to get the creative juices flowing, you must follow the energy. By seeking out what is most compelling and engaging, we often find our greatest successes.

 

The Key to Mental Agility 

An improv troupe, mid-performance, is not relying on their quick-wit alone. By exploring how the performers cultivate their ability, we can begin to understand how to be more effective in our work and better at finding new solutions to problems.

The mental agility of an improv troupe is more than just quickness of mind. A person who is mentally agile is able to think on their feet, solve problems, and be creative in the ways they engage at work. For most of us, cultivating mental agility in the workplace is not about getting a standing ovation from a heartily entertained audience (wouldn’t that be nice). Mental agility allows leaders to be more effective, and it helps teams collectively brainstorm better solutions and, ultimately, organizations to achieve more on the whole.

 

Appreciative Inquiry and Mental Agility

Appreciative Inquiry (Cooperrider, D., & Whitney, D, 2000) is based on the principle that in every human system, something works. When we Grow Mental Agilityintentionally tap into the energy of what is working, we will likely tap into what people care about and their generative capacity to create positive futures. Just as plants grow toward the sunlight so, too, do human systems grow toward their generative and energizing core.

An appreciative focus does not mean that we ignore obvious problems, or put on rose-colored glasses that only reveal the positive. It means that we use the generative energy of what drives us to co-create new and better possibilities. In an improvised scene, players foster generativity by the practice of saying, “Yes, and . . .” They accept their fellow players’ and the audience’s ideas (or “offers”) and build on them with something that heightens and explores what is most interesting and energizing. The most compelling offers are usually those that are novel and spark their curiosity. 

In creative collaboration and agile teams in the workplace, “players” similarly come together to generate new possibilities by building on each idea, rather than searching for every conceivable flaw. In organizational systems, it means following the people, processes, and products that are generating most interest and attention, as well as revenue. 

 

Four Ways to Cultivate Your Mental Agility

 

Notice the (and Your) Energy

The first step to tapping the positive energy available in any situation, collaboration, team, or even organization is to notice it. Pay attention to the situations where you feel most engaged and energized. Notice the interactions and people who elevate your thinking and bring out your best, and those that you find draining and deflating. Researchers have mapped energy hubs in organizations and have found that not only are the people who energize others more productive at work, the people who work with them are also more productive, as are the people who work with those people (Cross, R., & Parker, A., 2004)!  While you may not be able to spend all of your time in or with the energy hubs, you can become more aware of them and, better yet, become one yourself!

 

Make the Mindset Shift

I have written extensively about the importance of developing an agile mindset for overall agile success. The reason I keep repeating myself and sharing new strategies for making the shift is two-fold: 1) It is not easy, and 2) It requires repeated intentional practice. We are all wired to retreat back to our comfort zones, even after successfully finding our way through a disruption, crisis, or even unexpected opportunity. As exhilarating as these experiences are, we eventually drift back to familiar routines. This wouldn’t be a problem if we did not also drift back to a routine mindset that was not on the lookout for unexpected challenges and opportunities, and new learning. To ensure that you stay in an agile mindset as much as possible, make time to share your agility success experiences and lessons learned with your colleagues. How did you cultivate and maintain the frame of mind necessary to adapt to the unexpected quickly? How did, or do you, foster continuous learning? What could you have done differently to be even more agile and effective? Sharing your lessons learned has an added benefit: it helps build a culture of continuous learning, which is essential to agile success. 

Learn to Improvise

Quite possibly you have attended a live improv show, or even taken an improv workshop at some time in your life. Improvisers are masters of responding to the unexpected and unplanned. Their mastery doesn’t happen by accident. Before they even step on stage, they have taken the time to get in the mindset and practice the skills they need to accept whatever the audience suggests or their fellow players add to the scene and build on it. What better way to develop critical skills you need to access when the stakes are high at work than in a playful improv class? You will have no trouble finding one in your area with a few clicks of your mouse! 

Let Go of What is No Longer Working 

The art of letting go also means not laboring over relationships and projects that simply are not coming to life, or life-giving. I regularly have opportunities to relearn this lesson, and each time I have discovered that when I move on from a situation that is no longer generative, it frees up additional energy and resources for even more fruitful possibilities.

For more ideas on improving your and your team’s Mental Agility visit: https://pamela-meyer.com/meyer-agile-innovation/

 

References

Cooperrider, D., & Whitney, D. (2000). A positive revolution in change: Appreciative inquiry. In D. L. S. Cooperrider, Jr., Peter F.; Whitney, Diana; Yaeger, Therese (Ed.), Appreciative inquiry (pp. 3-27). Champaign, IL: Stipes.

Cross, R., & Parker, A. (2004). The hidden power of social networks: Understanding how work really gets done in organizations. Cambridge: Harvard Business School.

 

Meyer Creativity Associates, Inc. is now Meyer Agile Innovation!

Meyer Agile Innovation

Welcome to Meyer Agile Innovation!

If we have been in communication recently, you may have noticed that you now receive emails from [email protected] (a bit long, we know, but there you have it) rather than [email protected] [Note: both email addresses will continue to work] and that we are now using MeyerAgileInnovation.com as the primary URL for the website.

Why the change to Meyer Agile Innovation?

Creativity and innovative learning and talent development strategies are still at the root of our work, and our specific expertise in business agility, namely helping leaders, teams and organizations build their ability to respond effectively to the unexpected and unplanned and quickly turn challenges into opportunities is more relevant than ever.

The name change is in response to two robust trends:

1) Organizations recognize that to compete they need to adapt more quickly and innovatively to change than ever before.

2) Businesses across industries are adopting and scaling agile frameworks and specific methodologies, such as Scrum to improve everything from product development cycles to marketing strategies.

These shifts inspired me to practice what I preach and adapt to the market, drawing on my years of experience and research helping others do just that. – Pamela Meyer Ph.D. President, Meyer Agile Innovation

What Does This Mean For You?

How Can You Get the Most Out of These New Agile Innovation Resources?

  •     Check out our latest business agility offerings
  •     Sign up for our monthly newsletter (In the box to the right)
  •     Contact Us to tell us about your agility leadership and team development needs
  •     Follow us on social media: 

 

 

How Fit is Your Business? Part 4: Speed & Mobility

How Fit is Your Business? Part 4: Speed & Mobility

Many day-to-day business responsibilities and operations are routine. In order to be prepared for the unexpected, we must constantly scan the environment for new opportunities and challenges.  Responsiveness, Competitiveness and, Innovation are key components of an organizations Speed and Mobility.

How Fit is Your Business?Are you and your workforce able to move quickly with the needs of the market?

 

Flexibility is not one in the same with speed and mobility as discussed earlier, physical flexibility enables broader access to your strengths. Therefore, you need to be flexible in order to move. You also have to be ready which is where speed and mobility enter.

Readiness is the Capacity for Speed and Mobility

Military troops are ready when they can be quickly mobilized to respond to an emergent need. Similarly, your workforce is ready when it can rapidly mobilize to respond to a new opportunity, a shift in the market, or even a crisis.

In The Agility Shift, I describe the events that revealed a significant gap between competitors Nokia and Ericsson’s ability to mobilize. A fire in an Albuquerque, NM semiconductor plant caused a supply chain disruption for a crucial component on which both cell phone manufacturers depended. Nokia was ready to quickly mobilize in response to the crisis, while Ericsson was not, leading to significant losses and a drop in their market share. Sometimes it takes a crisis to prioritize agility. In recent years, Ericsson has done this across its enterprise with impressive results. The good news is that you and your business can benefit from the lessons learned by others and develop your readiness by attending to these critical areas:

  • Communication, Collaboration and Coordination
  • Surface Exposure
  • Decision Speed
  • Time to Market

Four Ways to Improve Your Speed and Mobility

Improve Communication, Collaboration and Coordination. Speed and mobility require competence, as well as systems and processes for what I have identified as the three Cs of agility: 

communication, collaboration and coordination.

Often cited for its agility, fashion retailer Zara is able to respond to changing trends and customer tastes at a regional and even store level. With an integrated supply chain and innovative systems and processes to monitor sales and feedback, Zara is able to get new fashions from

 concept to retail racks in a matter of weeks. Are you making optimal use of your existing systems and processes to maximize the three Cs?  

Increase Your Surface Exposure.  One of your first priorities to improve speed and mobility is to increase what researchers Christopher Worley and Edward Lawler call “surface exposure.” (2010). Surface exposure is the degree to which members of your organization are exposed to feedback and new developments in the marketplace. Zara has developed sophisticated channels and practices for just this purpose. Another of my clients uses Slack to monitor social media and other feedback channels in real time and immediately discuss them across product development, marketing, and customer service. In these examples it is not enough to monitor the information; your team must have the commitment and capability to digest and rapidly respond. How can you increase your surface exposure and responsiveness to the feedback it provides?

Improve Decision Speed.  Agile systems and processes have little value if the ideas and input they channel get lost in a maze of confusion and enervation. Numerous studies have linked fast decision speed with organizational performance and growth. Agile organizations empower their employees to make decisions on the spot, especially when they directly affect business results. Don’t let your fear of losing control deter you from improving decision speed. Rather, use it as motivation to clarify decision rights throughout your team or organization. This recent HBR article on decision making provides an excellent guide. Are your employees empowered to quickly make decisions that can impact business results?

Improve Time to Market.  You will have a hard time sustaining your results if your competitors beat you to the market with new products and services. A study by Salesforce.com found that developers using agile methodologies improved their time to market by 61%. Rather than adopt all of the elements of agile methodologies, especially if you are not in the software business,  you can significantly improve your timing by shifting your mindset and business practices with many lessons learned from agile pioneers. I distill and translate many of these lessons for wider application in The Agility Shift.

What business practices, systems, and processes do you have in place to increase your speed and mobility in response to shifts in your market?

What was the best thing about . . . ?

Today is the day after Thanksgiving. Despite the blare of television commercials and media reports from area shopping malls, we are choosing a quiet day of puttering around the house with vague plans for an afternoon movie. I am enjoying this calm and thinking about our dinner last night with friends.

At some point in our feast, between our non-traditional Thanksgiving Ceasar salad and Rita’s amazing stuffing, my partner asked “so what was the best thing about this year for everyone?” As we went around the table, each sharing a bit of gratitude and anticipation for the year ahead, I was reminded of the power of simple appreciation. The things we named—weathering a relationship rough patch and feeling hopeful; happy for abundant client work and interesting projects; excitement about creative energy in a new collaboration, and simply being able to create the space to share a decadent meal in the midst of it all—became a bit brighter in the claiming.

It is so simple, and perhaps a bit new-agey, yet has played out again and again in my experience: what we focus on becomes our reality. As we drove home, completely satiated and a bit over-indulged, I felt the opportunities and generative core each of us tapped guiding us. How nice that we take at least one day a year to slow down enough to notice this. And even nicer that we can choose to do it whenever we feel our vision of possibilities flagging.