By: Sam Bourton, Johanne Lavoie & Tiffany Vogel
(McKinsey Quarterly, March 2018)
Read the full article here:

The question addressed in this article is how leaders should apply their judgement and decision-making responsibilities in a time of accelerating change and sometimes fundamental disruption of the industries in which they operate. In its essence, Symmetra recommends this read because this article, using somewhat different terminology, is making a strong case for encouraging and building upon diversity of thought; entrenching a culture where psychological safety predominates so that ideas of all kinds can circulate and fostering a spirit of inclusion, so that everyone in the organisation feels that they are truly part of a common enterprise

The authors contend that in many cases the response by leaders is rigid, instinctive and unconsidered. This flows from a conscious or unconscious need to feel and be seen to be, in control. By contrast, what is needed is greater mental agility and a “comfortable creative relationship with uncertainty”.

Five personal practices will assist leaders to nurture skills of inner agility:

  1. Pause to move faster – stop; take a breather and create space to approach the issue with a fresh mind
  2. Embrace your ignorance – good ideas can come from unexpected sources. Accepting and acknowledging one’s ignorance can be a critical first step in careful listening and understanding how issues are viewed from other people’s perspectives.
  3. Radically reframe the questions – change the nature of the questions that one is asking oneself. Challenge oneself and ask: what is wrong with my assumption? What have I missed? Identify those who are most directly opposed to your position and seek their views.
  4. Set direction, not destination – join your team in a journey towards a general direction. Do not lay down the destination as a fixed, immutable goal.
  5. Test your solutions; and yourself – test every step of a proposed solution often. It ensures an ability to be able to respond quickly to technological shifts or changing market conditions. Micro-failures reduce the chance of macro-failures.

These 5 steps create the pathway to an agile mind – the ability to respond creatively, to a fast-changing environment by embracing uncertainty rather than falling back on old and no-longer appropriate methods.