Cognitive Flexibility in Agile Teams

This concept caught my attention as I was searching for ways to diversify my agile practices & coaching toolkit.

I was searching for something that goes beyond the ability to pause, reflect, adapt or pivot behavior, focusing more on how can we develop that fluid state of flexibility and what are some practical ways to get it instilled in the environments around us.

What can we do starting today?!

Just scratching the surface here, but here are some tips on how to instill and develop cognitive flexibility at the workplace.

Practice hypothesizing

Use scenarios like:

What if ____

Worst case scenario ____

And then build stories around those scenarios. By imagining various ways a situation can unfold, and especially ways it might go wrong we can be taught to envision unfavorable outcomes before they actually happen so we can plan ahead and overcome future obstacles.

Become willing to change your mind

To meet everyday implicit and explicit expectations, tight deadlines or peer conflicts we experience at the workplace, we need to be willing to adapt our habits and attitudes.

However, this willingness is dependent upon our ability to actively listen to feedback about what and how we need to change our behavior.

Hence, try first asking your people if they are ready to receive feedback. If they are, that’s a good indicator that they reached a higher level of openness to change. Start from there.

If they are not, use coaching to help them make their own discoveries about what they want to change in themselves or the organizational environment.

The creation of a shared vision requires an ongoing negotiation between self and others. It is through this negotiation over time that shared understanding and ultimately, a shared vision emerges.

Redirect emotions

Often times happens that when faced with a challenge or obstacle, those of us who are able to distinguish between a “big deal” versus a “little deal” are much more equipped to stay on course because they can control their emotions.

There are currently many companies which invest in mindfulness programs that support their employees. However, in the end it’s our responsibility to teach ourselves how to engage in emotional self-awareness techniques, such as practicing slow breathing or taking a pause in the midst of a crisis to clear our head, or quickly shift focus until we recalibrate.

As we keep on practicing, we will get better and better at regulating our emotional self-control and master self-management techniques.

There are many more ways in which we can start making a difference and influencing the environment and culture around us, but for now, I’ll leave you with 2 important cues for identifying cognitive flexibility in your teams or individuals. Chances are that you’re already experiencing that on a daily basis.

Creativity and Humor

Creativity and humor, in both their expression and interpretation, require cognitive flexibility. That is, creativity and humor require the individual to access and switch between different cognitive schemas, which are mental representations of knowledge, or knowledge structures, that guide human behaviors. (Fiske & Taylor, 1984)

Creative thinking is hardly possible without cognitive flexibility.

If your organization needs a cognitive flexibility boost, is focused on how to develop an agile mindset and greater mental flexibility to increase its learning potential, feel free to send me a message. Curious to start a conversation.




Coach | Scrum Master | Author | Progress Facilitator — Bringing value to daily interactions. Enthusiastically.

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Anamaria Calițoiu

Anamaria Calițoiu

Coach | Scrum Master | Author | Progress Facilitator — Bringing value to daily interactions. Enthusiastically.

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