Increase Your Agility

It’s an ironclad truth that you are bound to encounter surprises in your work and your life. Hopefully, many of them will be pleasant. But every once in a while, you’re going to encounter a difficulty, danger, obstacle, or antagonist that you simply cannot avoid en route to your goal.

To deal effectively with any such issues and avoid unnecessary head-on collisions, you’ll want to exercise as much agility as you can.

The good news is that, no matter how much or how little agility you are born with, you can definitely acquire more. In fact, you can develop more than one type of agility, each of which will help you with aspects of your issues.

Let’s look deeper into the various types of agility you may want to cultivate:

Diagnostic Agility

The first step in solving any problem is understanding it. But different problems require different modes of analysis and diagnosis. This is the reason for the common warning: “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”  If your problem is not a nail, then attacking it with a hammer is almost certainly going to be less effective and more complicated for you than it otherwise could be.

That’s why it’s important you take a step back from your immediate problem and determine first and foremost the best way to analyze it, the best model that explains it, and the best set of skills needed to dissect it.

You may not be an expert at all the possible analytical and diagnostic approaches, but it’s helpful to have a broad understanding or at least awareness of many different ones so you can come at your issue from an appropriate angle.

Working Agility

With a difficulty, danger, obstacle, or antagonist correctly diagnosed, you’ll want to find a solution, remedy, or workaround that will still take you where you want to go. Think in terms of the expression: “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

If you try to skin a cat the same way every time, you’ll make a mess of too many situations.

Finding a secondary path to the existing goal generally requires an ability to smoothly switch gears and make use of available resources, acquire additional resources and assistance, and tap into a suitable variety of skills, knowledge, and experience.

Creative Agility

When there’s no obvious secondary path to the goal, some facility with creative agility can lead you to break new ground and move toward an innovative response to the difficulty, danger, obstacle, or antagonist.

This will often involve borrowing ideas and resources from other scenarios, or even creating entirely new ones.

Metaphorically, think in terms of a hammer that you creatively repurpose as a weight, a support, or something else.

Information Agility

As I’ve written many times, a big part of productivity and success depends on the cooperation of other people. For this reason, the ability to communicate with and persuade other people is often extremely useful when the dirt is hitting the fan.

Since different people respond to different approaches, appeals, arguments, and incentives, the agility to couch your communication and persuasion in whatever terms and through whatever channels other people will most respect and appreciate can be extremely helpful.

Predictive Agility

In addition to dealing with a difficulty, danger, obstacle, or antagonist in the short-term, there’s great value in also being able to recognize any longer-term considerations that will likely flow from the immediate situation.

This predictive agility often requires a willingness to be more subtle: sometimes accepting a short-term retreat or sacrifice in order to set up a longer-term advantage or success, other times remaining quiet or passive and allowing a currently unpleasant situation to play itself out, or perhaps looking at historical precedents to learn what you can from how people before you successfully handled similar situations.

In some ways, “predictive” is the most important form of agility, because in most situations your work and your life tend to be more like a marathon than a sprint. Immediate action is useful, of course, but becomes much more so when it supports a longer-term strategy that aims toward a solid, lasting payoff.

So in practice, your application of your diagnostic, working, creative, and information agilities should often be mediated and controlled by the fruits of your predictive agility.

In fact, predictive agility is potentially helpful even in the absence of a difficulty, danger, obstacle, or antagonist. Just recognizing the contours of a situation, and identifying the best way to extrapolate the present into the likely future can be invaluable for maintaining and increasing your level of productivity and success.

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