I consider “nimbleness” the Holy Grail of being.
People who are nimble can handle virtually any situation, adapting and flexing in response to changing threats and opportunities, while at the same time staying true to their sense of self. Organizations that are nimble remain relevant and aligned, modifying their programs and offerings in the face of shifting contexts and needs. And communities that are nimble anticipate evolving trends and priorities, leveraging their different strengths and assets while maintaining a core identity that never wavers.
What is the alternative to nimbleness? Just take a look around at the vast majority of individuals, organizations, and communities who find themselves in a perpetual state of vulnerability.
Theoretically, we could quantify one’s current level of nimbleness on a continuum anchored by two extremes. On one end we would find a perfect positive state including a clear and compelling mission, a maximal responsiveness to the external environment, and a highly functioning quality control system. At the other extreme one would find a complete absence or lack of clarity, opaqueness, and no working system for accommodating change or ensuring fidelity.
Assuming we could extrapolate some valid measure or system of evaluation, you might ask whether nimbleness is a construct worthy of our time and attention. I would argue absolutely, especially when we consider the implications of individuals, organizations, and communities that would place somewhere on the negative end of the spectrum.
After all, a lack of nimbleness precludes growth, with individuals or organizations struggling to maintain and sustain themselves in their current form while the world around them continues to change and evolve. Because of the amount of energy and work that this consumes, and the growing distance between the external realities and the self, assets and strengths cannot be effectively leveraged resulting in missed opportunities for growth or eventual obsolescence.
While these implications are profound, they are completely reversible, and linear, with any movement toward the positive end of the continuum resulting in meaningful gains, both for the individual or organization and also the external world that stands to benefit.
With regard to movement or growth within the continuum, the defined features serve as both a guide and measurement. Clarity of mission- one can achieve this either inductively or deductively, or ideally by moving between the two, examining patterns of thinking and action along with guiding principles and commitments to identify one’s core or essence.
Responsiveness to the broader world- this can be achieved through eliciting and reflecting upon feedback, data, or input, analyzing patterns and trends, considering implications and identifying areas of overlap or possible synergy.
And lastly a process and tools for adaptation can be gleaned from a host of paradigms and frameworks that facilitate what are in essence gap analyses and the work of strategic planning toward some identified vision or state of actualization. Clearly, we can become more nimble- as individuals, organizations, and communities. When we are strong and clear, we function at a higher level of productivity, are more resilient, stable, and ultimately happier and more fulfilled.
Since nimbleness- as a construct and state of being- can be cultivated, measured, manipulated and brought to scale, isn’t it time that we embrace all that it stands to offer?