Careers Development

The use of the term ‘agile’ in the business world has certainly increased in recent times. This has been mainly driven by the fact that many companies have been embracing AGILE methodologies and tools, originally used in the area of software design, to improve overall business efficiencies and effectiveness. There is no doubt that we are operating in an environment of relentless deadlines and pressure where it feels like we are constantly racing to just stand still. This has often been referred to as the ‘VUCA’ world meaning volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. In this hectic world in which we operate there is very often little or no time for real thinking, reflection and contemplation, never mind thinking with agility. However in a rapidly changing world, one of the few things that you can control is how you think. Other aspects of the VUCA world are beyond our control but you can manage how you think and respond.  Increasing your ability to manage how you think and respond can have significant benefits for your career and life in general. So what do we mean when we refer to thinking with agility? It essentially refers to the way in which we think and consequently act. It relates to our flexibility and adaptability when we are in a position where we have to think and act quickly. It is our ability to be nimble and flexible and to respond to situations that arise including those that are completely unexpected for example if you are asked to present at a management meeting at short notice and you have not had time to prepare. How do we improve our ability to think with agility? Know your thinking style A good starting point is to initially increase your awareness of the way in which you think. In other words what is your thinking style? For example, ask yourself if you are more of a creative and innovative thinker or indeed are you an analytical or practical thinker? Also consider how well your thinking style has served you in the past. We all have patterns of thinking and we have a tendency to revert to old habits when we are under pressure. What are your thinking patterns? Another way in which to consider this is to reflect on whether you typically ‘react’ or ‘respond’ in various situations. What you do in certain situations will be indicative of your thinking style. Reviewing how you dealt with those situations in the past can help you to identify your thinking style and any patterns that exist. Challenge your thinking As the famous quote states ‘if you do what you always did, y0u will get what you always got’. Be mindful not to become entrenched in the same modes of thinking or indeed the same behaviours. Challenge yourself and others to think differently and to consider other options. Don’t automatically revert to the previous ways of doing things. Be brave and consider new options and alternatives. A way in which to challenge your thinking and that of others is to ask more questions and to ensure that they are probing and powerful questions. The ‘5 whys’ for example can be a useful tool. Your thinking ripples into other areas How you think is reflected not only in the decisions that you make but also in the way you behave and act, in how you communicate as well as in your own levels of self-belief. If you alter and shift your thinking even in the smallest of ways it can have a significantly positive impact on your life and career. A few moments can make all the difference When faced with a challenging decision that requires the ability to think with agility always try to take even a short pause before committing to a final decision. Even this split second can help you to tune into your reasoning and can support more agile thinking. Thinking skills and not technical skills that will determine success The art of thinking with agility is learning to flex your reasoning and deliberation depending on the situation that you are faced with and knowing when to do so. As your career progresses and you take on more senior level roles it will be your ability to adapt your thinking style and not necessarily your technical capabilities that will determine the level of your career success. Be Brave and start a new habit Experiment with flexing your thinking and review what impact it has. What different outcomes are you experiencing? Your brain is like a muscle and the more you flex your fresh way of thinking the better it will become at implementing this new habit. With practice new neuropathways will develop in your brain that will help you to become a more agile thinker. What resources can help? Stress has been proven to reduce our capacity to think clearly. Reducing stress in general can help in terms of improving your ability to think with agility. Exercise and mindfulness can support the reduction of the stress hormone cortisol and the impact that stress has on your body. Reducing your stress levels will improve cognitive ability and agility. Overview The essential skill of thinking with agility can be learned and enhanced as you progress your career. Improving your self-awareness is essential to improving your thinking style combined with the desire and confidence to challenge the status quo and to try new ways of thinking. - Karin Lanigan Karin is the Head of Member Experience with Chartered Accountants Ireland

Jan 10, 2020