What is dan­ger­ous is not to evolve.” That’s a quote that I includ­ed in my first e‑book. It’s from Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Ama­zon.

In an excel­lent recent blog post, Jason Fried offers “Some advice from Jeff Bezos”, which expand­ed my appre­ci­a­tion for Bezos’ think­ing as well as the think­ing of all pro­gres­sive lead­ers.

Fried, who had the chance to talk with Bezos for 90 min­utes, reports that Ama­zon’s leader believes that peo­ple who are right a lot of the time are “peo­ple who often changed their minds.” Accord­ing to Fried’s report, Bezos also said that he doesn’t favour peo­ple who always think the same way. To Bezos, con­sis­ten­cy of thought is an over­rat­ed char­ac­ter­is­tic, and it’s fine to advo­cate a new idea even though it might con­tra­dict some­thing one said yes­ter­day. More­over, Fried reports that Bezos also respects peo­ple who are will­ing to recon­sid­er prob­lems once “solved” — because it shows that they’re, lit­er­al­ly, open-mind­ed.

I real­ly like the idea expressed in the blog that lead­ers need a well-defined point of view but that they should con­sid­er it an “tem­po­rary”. Noth­ing worse than some­one who refus­es to accept change and, as a result, refus­es to change what he or she thinks. Tell me you haven’t encoun­tered some­one who stub­born­ly refus­es to budge from their point of view no mat­ter what the height and width of new infor­ma­tion dumped onto their desk­top. Isn’t this the essence of con­tem­po­rary archi­tect Antho­ny Lawlor’s think­ing: “Thus, flex­i­bil­i­ty, as dis­played by water, is a sign of life. Rigid­i­ty, its oppo­site, is an indi­ca­tor of death.” [For more of Lawlor’s think­ing, go here.]Flexible businessman

In the organ­i­sa­tion­al world, this flex­i­bil­i­ty is now being called “learn­ing agili­ty”, and it has become a rather hot top­ic in lead­er­ship devel­op­ment cir­cles. While there are sev­er­al notions of what learn­ing agili­ty actu­al­ly is, there is also a grow­ing sense that the mind­set, skillset and behav­iours asso­ci­at­ed with learn­ing agili­ty do indeed help lead­ers per­form bet­ter when faced with rapid­ly chang­ing envi­ron­ments and the cor­re­spond­ing ambi­gu­i­ty that accom­pa­nies them (what I call “dis­rup­tive ambi­gu­i­ty”).

Research from a grow­ing num­ber of schol­ars sug­gests that lead­ers who are able to seek out, man­age, under­stand and ulti­mate­ly learn from new and chal­leng­ing expe­ri­ences are able to act deci­sive­ly even when uncer­tain. As a result, learn­ing-agile indi­vid­u­als can effec­tive­ly take in and process infor­ma­tion, inte­grate new ideas with pre­vi­ous expe­ri­ences, reflect upon new insights and gen­er­ate solu­tions to prob­lems that ulti­mate­ly lead to new ways of doing things. In my expe­ri­ence, agile lead­ers are best suit­ed to utilise oppor­tu­ni­ty fore­sense when con­front­ed by dis­rup­tive ambi­gu­i­ty. That is, agile lead­ers don’t allow them­selves to become stuck with the solu­tions that worked for yesterday’s prob­lems, even if they them­selves were the ones who came up with those solu­tions.

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