Agility is a critical component of success, in fact research has shown that executives with high levels of learning agility are 5 times more likely to be engaged and the businesses they are part of will make 25% more money. Learning agility is a phrase that is being used more and more within business. The easiest way to think about learning agility is as a mental trait that allows a person to learn and adapt based on their experiences and apply this new knowledge in a variety of situations. What makes learning agility important is that it is not just about learning new things, but also unlearning old things. What often holds back people from being able to successfully adapt to new circumstances is being unable to let go of ‘how it has always been done’. Adam Grants book Think Again walks us through the journey. So, what can you learn from the book?

In a constantly changing world, it is beneficial to change your mind

In 2009, we all used a Blackberry smartphone and the company controlled almost 50 percent of the smartphone market. Literally everyone from Bill Gates to President Obama, to Oprah, declared that they couldn’t live without their Blackberries. But just five years later, the company’s market share had shrunk to just 1 percent. A key reason for this was that Blackberry’s inventor, Mike Lazaridis, wouldn’t change his mind. A key selling point for the blackberry was its keyboard. As Apple’s iPhone was released in 2007 and began to gain market share, Lazaridis continued to believe that most consumers would only want a device that could make calls and send and receive emails. After all, that is what the customers of a Blackberry had always used it for. He simply couldn’t imagine a world in which people wanted more than what a Blackberry could do. However, consumer behaviour had changed, and the rest was history. Ironically, there were people in Blackberry that had tried for years to expand the functionality for broader use. If they had been listened to, we may all have been still using a Blackberry today.

There are three key steps to changing people’s minds

Have you ever wondered why certain people seem to double down on their beliefs when presented with undisputable proof that their view is wrong? When it comes to negotiations simply throw fact after fact at a person doesn’t mean they will change their mind. The best negotiators actually start by discussing common ground with the person. Mediocre negotiators arm themselves with reasons why they’re right and the other person is wrong, but the best negotiators also mention things on which they might actually agree. They understand that in order to win the war, its OK to lose a few battles. In addition, the best negotiators also use less arguments not more. They understand that the more arguments you have, the more likely it is some of them are weak. Once a couple are picked apart, the rest will lose credibility. Therefore, agreeing with your opponent on a number of things, but having a small number of points that there is no counter argument to is a much stronger position to be in. It also means that the other person will be more inclined to change their mind as you have agreed with them on a number of items, so they are more willing to concede on one or two items. To emphasise their point and close it out, they ask more questions as opposed to closed statements. Asking a question such as “can you understand why this makes sense” is a lot more powerful than saying “this is why you are wrong”.

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