Why Self Awareness is the Key to Business Agility

After the year we’ve had, leaders can increasingly see the value in being able to change direction quickly when needed. Like a cheetah chasing down prey, the ability to turn on a dime will allow businesses to weather the storms of the coming years.

Post-pandemic, organisations are facing some huge shifts over the coming decade:

  • The move to AI and increasing automation;

  • The impacts of climate change and decarbonisation of the economy;

  • A talent pool characterised by increasing self-awareness and agency who value fulfilment and flexibility as much as their pay cheques.

Agility will become an increasingly important facet for organisational success, but true agility cannot be magicked up through bold moves, endless re-structures and re-orgs or - least of all - re-brands and catchphrases.

Many organisations approach Untapped AI in this difficult spot: They know they need to get more agile, but they’ve no idea how to achieve it. They’ve tried training, consultancy, coaching and re-organisations, but things aren’t changing – or not nearly fast enough.

Less cheetah-like and more like a huge ship, when icebergs approach they know they need to shift gears and fast.

The Power of Self Awareness – for Individuals and Organisations

When an organisation is stuck, it’s usually because its people are stuck - and no amount of command-and-control, telling people what to do, will help in that situation.

That’s because the ways that we get stuck, whether as individuals or as groups, are often to do with unconscious and automatic thoughts, feelings and behaviours. This is normal: We all operate through these automatic thoughts a huge amount of the time. It’s how we can drive to work and realise suddenly that we’ve got all the way there but can’t remember any specific decisions we made along the way. In relationships, it’s how we have learned to be with other people, facets of our personality.

Some of it we know about ourselves, and some of it we’re less aware of. When organisations get stuck, it’s usually because this is occurring at scale in their people: The parts of themselves that they are less consciously aware of are interacting with these parts of other people. Defences are raised and feelings of frustration or fear begin to dominate.

When this happens, training or consultancy won’t work because much as people might want things to change, how can they change things that they don’t know about or can’t see? And that’s where self awareness comes in.

Why Self Awareness Makes the Difference

The process of building self awareness involves peeling back the layers of defences that hold us in rigid patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. It’s the process of getting to know those automatic and unconscious thoughts, feelings and behaviours that hold us back.

Over time, and with work, this allows individuals to begin to examine these ingrained ways of being and consider new responses and behaviours, and to open up new vistas of thought and feeling. From growing self awareness individuals and groups will be able to identify the places where they are getting stuck and realise that they have new, different choices in how they respond and behave.

The Impacts

As self awareness unlocks the parts of ourselves that we didn’t know so well, this widens our choices about how to act, and allows us to make informed responses in response to our feelings. This allows individuals and groups to:

- Move away from ruts, stuckness and ingrained ways of thinking, and be more open to difference – in people, in ideas and approaches, and within themselves.

- Recognise and focus in on key factors rather than getting lost in detail or overwhelmed by the big picture.

- Acknowledge their own patterns of thinking and feeling and therefore explore other choices – building innovative ways of thinking and interacting with others.

- Work with resilience, bringing knowledge and acknowledgement of the strengths they as individuals and as whole groups have. This gives deep confidence to make courageous choices and take informed risks.

- Experiment and make mistakes. Feeling safe to do so allows individuals and groups to own errors and therefore learn from them, a vital part of agility.

These deep changes in individuals and the whole group mean that organisations become freer, able to make decisions more quickly and outside of their usual ways of working.

In a word, they become agile.

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