Birth of the agility shifter

A recent article “The global forces inspiring a new narrative of progress” in McKinsey Quarterly, states that “Corporate leaders today need to rethink where and how they compete and must cooperate in the crafting of a new societal deal that helps individuals cope with disruptive technological change”. The article outlines a broad narrative of intensifying competition, as well as the growing need for cooperation and collaboration, containing challenges, and also great opportunities for developing innovation leadership capabilities through agility shifting.

It poses three key questions:

  • How long can the traditional sources of competitive advantage survive in the face of technological shifts?
  • How will changing consumer and societal expectations affect their business models?
  • What does it mean to be a global company when the benefits of international integration are under intense scrutiny?

This reinforces what Daniel Pink outlines in his book “The Conceptual Age” where he states that the future “belongs to a different kind of person with a different kind of mind”.

This includes leaders who know how to be, think and act differently. Who both co-create new sources of competitive advantage and deliver great people and customer experiences. Within a globalized and digitized world, to achieve high-performance business outcomes and great customer experiences.

What is agility shifting?

This creates an exciting opportunity and a new context and role for corporate leaders; which, at ImagineNation™ we describe as “agility shifters”:

People who have the speed and grace to respond to the unexpected, and who provocate and disrupt to create changes. Who shift their way of being, thinking, to co-create new ways of doing things that add value to the quality of people’s lives in ways that they value & cherish.

Depending less on new skills and knowledge and much more on clarifying the context they operate within.  On creating the safe space for people co-create ideas, breakthrough and inflection points, together within a psychologically safe learning environment to:

  • Emerge creative ideas,
  • Explore new roles,
  • Allow more flexibility, improvisation and play in the system.

Agility shifting in ways that leverage talent to succeed in VUCA times and in the fourth industrial revolution that is occurring right in front of us.

Exploring the Leadership Realm of “both” “and”

At ImagineNation™ we encourage and enable our clients to work with “both” – What is already in existence, whether it works, or not, “and” with the possibilities as to what could or might exist in the future.

In the context of innovation leadership, it is crucial to build upon “both” the leadership basics “and” the possibilities of developing a fresh set of agile capacities and competences, and the confidence to embody and enact them to;

  • Know how to be deeply present to, see, be connected to and responsive to complex adaptive systems, the unexpected and the unplanned.
  • Build networks of relationships that act as frameworks for making and preserving meaning, to respond to, regroup and re-frame the current reality and find a new way forward.

The five dynamics of the agility shifting leader –  in the realm of “both/and”

In her ground-breaking book “The Agility Shift”, Pamela Myer, outlines the five dynamics; qualities and characteristics that come to life through consistent, intentional practice.  Building upon and expanding these from our research obtained from our five years of teaching The Coach for Innovators Certified Program include the following descriptions for innovation leadership:

1. Relevant: Have “both” a clear reason as to “why” they are in business, a clear sense of passionate purpose that resonates, engages “and” guides and compels people to contribute and align to, the way things get done in the organization.
Involves an inspirational and emotionally connected idea of the future, one that engages people at the head, heart and gut levels to commit to a bigger contribution beyond profit. Toward the possibility of something better, for themselves, customers, society and the common good.

2.  Responsive: The ability to “both” respond quickly “and” effectively to the unexpected and unplanned, as well as to emerging opportunities through timely decision rights and processes.
Involves taking the path of inner self-management and discipline, knowing how to see the world with fresh eyes, suspending judgment, being attentional and observing the whole system and immersing oneself in ‘what is’ and with ‘what could be’.

3. Resilient: The ability to “both” regroup, reorganize “and” renew in response to significant disruption by adapting and transforming.
Involves developing new mindsets and resourceful be-ing states; courage, compassion, curiosity, confidence, and connectedness to cultivate self-efficacy and use adversity as a stimulus for change.  To let go of old mental models, mindsets and world views to allow time and space to incubate ‘what could be.’ By colliding necessity with the possibility to create cracks, openings, and thresholds for creative ideas and change.

4. Resourceful: The ability to “both” be aware of, use “and” improve with all the available resources- human, technical and environmental as provocation for creativity & innovation under pressure.
Involves generating discovery through attending, questioning and listening at the generative level to emerge creative ideas and innovative solutions. Developing permission and safety for intelligent risk-taking, improvisation, failure, and iteration. Developing networks and teaming across barriers and boundaries to create innovation eco-systems of aligned players. Being able to crystallize, prototype, test and verify new ideas until they work.

5. Reflective: The ability to be “both” open and willing to learn by doing, and from experience “and” by expanding their capacity for reflection, by intentionally and continuously asking provocative and disruptive questions to generate discovery, creativity and learning.
Involves knowing how to indwell and be attuned to the present moment, being willing to surrender control and power, be-in absorbed in the experience, retreating into stillness and silence as portals to learning and new knowledge. The perception of a new reality and discovery of a hidden solution, and willingness to embody and enact the new way forward.  

Be-coming an agility shifter – do you have the foresight and courage?

Taking the path less traveled seems to be simple, yet it requires leaders to really stretch themselves to see, own and be accountable for empowering and enabling themselves and others to be the best they can be.

To do this in line with what Mc Kinsey Quarterly Review describes as;

Growth shifts. Accelerating disruption. A new societal deal. These are powerful forces that demand thoughtful responses and contain the seeds of extraordinary opportunity. Leaders reaching for these opportunities will need to question their own assumptions and imagine new possibilities. Those who do will compete more effectively; they also will be better able to contribute to broader solutions, and ultimately to a new and more inclusive narrative of progress”.

Imagine what you could do and the difference you could make to people, customers, organizations, communities and the world doing it?

At ImagineNation™ we provide innovation and leadership coaching, education and culture consulting to help businesses achieve their innovation goals. Because we have done most of the learning and actioning of new hybrid mindsets, behaviours and skill-sets already, we can help your businesses also do this by opening people up to their innovation potential.

Contact us now at to find out how we can partner with you to learn, adapt and grow your business in the digital age.