Why Cultivate Innovation Agility?

by Janet Sernack

Skier in high mountains

I was at a committee meeting recently and one of the guiding principles adopted by the team was “agile decision making – the 80:20 rule”. When I inquired as to what “agile decision making” actually meant, I was informed that it meant accelerating planning by making fast decisions that did not need to be “perfect”.

So does this mean that I had to discard my 20 plus years of developing effective and agreed decision making processes with top teams?

How do I make fast instant decisions without taking time (even just 5 minutes) to reflect on and inquire, verbally with the team, or even internally, on the three “R’s” of agile decision making?
Relevance – Why is this an important issue/or not? What exactly do we hope to achieve?
Responsive – What are the options, what is the likely impact of each one?
Resilience – What could be some of the possible disruptions? What if……?
Resourceful – What is best use of resources? Where might we experiment and improvise?
Finally – What will I/we choose to do about it?

This added even more confusion to my recent conundrums, how the word “agility” has slipped into the vernacular, and yet, it seems that there is no common understanding as to what it really means, and how to leverage it as a key concept for 21st century business enterprise success.

So, like possibly, some of you, I began searching for a practical and pragmatic definition for the “agility” some time ago to explore – Why is it that, despite many leaders’ approaches, agility is not simply accelerated planning?

What does it mean to be agile?
Some of the questions I asked famous innovation webinar presenters, blog writers and innovation management consultants without getting clear answers;
What does it really mean to “be” agile?
-Why is this one of the most important capabilities to cultivate today?
-How can it be applied to individual, teams and business enterprise success?
-What key elements need to be in place to develop agility competence, capacity, and confidence?

What is the definition of agility?

Using this data as my starting point, I found on Wikipedia a well-accepted definition; this just confused me even more;

Business agility is the “ability of a business system to rapidly respond to change by adapting its initial stable configuration”. Business agility can be maintained by maintaining and adapting goods and services to meet customer demands, adjusting to the changes in a business environment and taking advantage of human resources.

It goes onto to describe, that in a business context, agility is the ability of an organization to rapidly adapt to market and environmental changes in productive and cost-effective ways. An agile enterprise uses the key principles of complex adaptive systems and complexity science to achieve success.

Finally, it declared, business agility is the outcome of organizational intelligence. This made me inquire and question even more;
How then, do we find the time to discover and explore simple ways of working with the notions of complex adaptive systems and complexity?
– How can we make these abstract concepts coherent to apply them to individual, team and business enterprise success?
– What then, are the foundations of organizational intelligence?

At ImagineNation™ our focus is on building “know-how” in applying innovation as a strategic and systemic lever, focussing on the “how-to’s” of innovative culture, management, leadership, coaching & start-up entrepreneurship.

Taking into account our clients need for Speed and Simplicity, and Low-Cost, High-Value Agile Learning Solutions, we just don’t have the time to go deeply into the theory behind complex adaptive systems, complexity science, and the multiple intelligence debate.

We just need to know how to contextualize and our clients to apply them.

The Agility Shift

It wasn’t until I came across a fabulous book, The Agility Shift, by Pamela Myers, that it all started to make sense to me, and if I was going to teach it, then I needed to congruently embody and enact it myself, and then build the concepts, principles, and techniques into our innovation curriculum.

She describes “Agility as the ability to make an intentional shift in order to be effective in changing contexts” and that “every person in every organization will experience the need to respond to the unexpected and unplanned in big and small ways, and will have a choice whether or not to make their own agility shift.”

It was music to my ears because, at ImagineNation™ we agree with Pamela Myer, in that be-ing innovative depends less on new skills and knowledge and much more on the context or safe space people co-create together in a “Playspace” involving;
– The play of new ideas
– People playing new roles
– More play in the system
– Improvised play.

What are the Three “C’s” of Organizational Intelligence?

1. Agility competence involves cultivating the mindsets, behaviours, and generative skills necessary to respond to the unexpected and unplanned. As well as being safely disruptive in the discovery and design phases of innovation to generate new developments and innovative breakthroughs from emerging trends.
2. Agility capacity is about cultivating the emotional, visceral & cognitive abilities to flow and flourish with uncertainty and volatility.
3. Agility confidence is about cultivating the self-efficacy to trust their own, and others’ judgments, competence and capacity to be effective in changing contexts.

Who is an innovative and agile leader or coach?
Someone who knows how to be present to, see and respond to (complex adaptive systems) the unexpected and the unplanned (complexity), and shift their way of being, thinking and doing (applying multiple intelligence) to emerge possibilities, opportunities and solve problems generatively.

What are the benefits of innovation agility to individuals, teams and business enterprises?
– Accelerates the innovation process.
– Reduces the resistance factors and risks inherent in change and innovation.
– Engages, empowers, and enables the entire organization & broader ecosystem in the innovation effort.

Creating the “Playspace” for Agility
Supporting Pamela Myers’ discovery – “one of the most important aspects of agility – the ability to make intentional shift in order to be effective in changing contexts rings very true to us at ImagineNation™.

I wonder if we all invested more time, resources and energy creating the Playspaces, she describes, we will in fact expand our individual and collective capacity for innovation agility?

If doing, this will, in turn, maximize the diversity, differences and connectivity in our people and teams, make innovation part of everyone’s jobs every day and finally enable business enterprise to build, grow and compete more fluidly, and perhaps even make the world a better place?

Where “connecting happens through the implicit shared experience and intention and building happens in the moment on stage, as new worlds are co-created and explored”.

Invitation to join the webinar

Find out more by joining ImagineNations™ next free 60 minute webinar in our ‘Making Innovation a Habit’ Series; it’s with Connective Intelligence and the Organizational Growth Indicator (OGI) on Friday, 31st March 2017 in Asia and East Coast Australia, and on Thursday, 30th March in the USA, South America, and Canada. Register now at http://www.imaginenation.com.au/free-monthly-webinars/

image credit: bigstockphoto.com

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janet-sernackJanet Sernack is an ICF ACC accredited executive coach, corporate trainer, group facilitator and culture and change consultant with over 25 years of experience with some of Australasia’s and Israel top 100 companies. She is the Founder of ImagineNation™ a generative and provocative innovation education company that provides innovation e-learning programs including The Coach for Innovators Certified Program™ experiential learning events including The Start-Up Game™ and culture transformation projects that enable people and corporations to develop a strategic and systemic innovation culture and internal capability.

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