Developing Inner Agility

Admission: Inner agility is not one of my strongest suits.  I am a recovering control freak.

To state the obvious – we are living in a time of increasing complexity.

Much of that complexity is of our own making.

  • Additive processes.
  • The cult of “more.”
  • A bias towards “growth” and speed.
  • Access to an overwhelming amount of information
  • Increasing demands for attention from ALL corners
  • More diverse things connected with and dependent on each other

In 2011, Gokce Sargut and Rita Gunther McGrath, in the Harvard Business Review, observed:

It’s harder to make sense of things, because the degree of complexity may lie beyond our cognitive limits. And it’s harder to place bets, because the past behavior of a complex system may not predict its future behavior. In a complex system the outlier is often more significant than the average.

If you remove the wrong variable in your environment, you wind up with the Tacoma-Narrows Bridge.

No wonder people (leaders and employees alike) are paralyzed and overwhelmed.

Choose the wrong variable…and it feels like disaster is imminent.

In a recent article, Sam Bourton, Johanne Lavoie, and Tiffany Vogel at McKinsey call for a recognition of the cognitive and emotional load that this complexity can cause. For everyone.

And, naturally, at times of intense stress, it’s easy to fall back into survival patterns.

It’s hard enough when you are an employee.  As a leader, if you fall back into old survival patterns – the negative impact can be that much greater.

“At the very time that visionary, empathetic, and creative leadership is needed, we fall into conservative, rigid old habits.”

And with the desire to move faster and faster and do more and more with fewer resources, no wonder transformation efforts, of any scale, fail.

It’s not a simple fix.

It requires individuals to practice the opposite of what the culture demands, how many of us are schooled to act, and how our brains prefer to work.

To spot opportunities—and threats—in this environment, we must teach ourselves how to have a more comfortable and creative relationship with uncertainty. That means learning how to relax at the edge of uncertainty, paying attention to subtle clues both in our environment and in how we experience the moment that may inform unconventional action.

This relaxation at the edge of uncertainty is the key to inner agility.

The McKinsey consultants’ recommendations to develop inner agility:

  • Pause to move faster – ie, stop to look at the map occasionally. Are you still headed in the right direction?
  • Embrace your ignorance – Be a beginner. Ask questions. Learn from others. Good ideas can come from anywhere.
  • Radically reframe your questions – It might be worthwhile to ask at a higher level.  Ask people you know will disagree with you. Question your assumptions.
  • Set direction, not destination – Having a north star to provide context to your destination helps.
  • Test your solutions, and yourself – Allow for “safe to fail” experiments (this is what pilot projects are supposed to do). Do this for yourself too.

How much resistance did you feel when you read those recommendations?

Thing is, these are some of the behaviors that will help stop the insanity.

I feel we’ve hit a point where we need to start making hard choices about our direction, the things we focus on, and the activities we undertake.

Opportunities are abundant. Time and energy may not be.

It may be time to stop, look at the map, and make sure you are headed in the direction you expect.


Leading with Inner Agility – McKinsey

Harvard Business Review – Learning to Live with Complexity

Top 6 Benefits of Performance Support Tools (PSTs) In Corporate Training

Performance Support Tools (PSTs) are learning aids or job aids that are designed to offer specific support to learners precisely at the moment of their need. In this blog, I outline the definition, significance, and the key benefits of Performance Support Tools.

All of us learn from different sources ranging from structured or formal training to learning by watching others or taking specific help from colleagues. The biggest learning certainly is on the job (often through challenges that we face and overcome).

While the exact ratio of the approach that offers the most effective training is debatable, a good index to map the various options is the 70:20:10 model for Learning and Development.

This popular model is used extensively by organizations and it postulates that we learn:

  • 70 percent from on the job experiences (experiential learning).
  • 20 percent from interactions with others (social learning).
  • 10 percent from formal (structured learning).

In spite of this evidence, not many organizations have a structured approach to support training beyond the formal or structured training. Performance Support Tools or PSTs admirably fit in to fill this gap

PSTs can be used to support the formal training and push the knowledge acquisition to knowledge application. They are available to learners within their workflow and this increases their usage at the moment of their need.

What are Performance Support Tools or PSTs?

Performance Support Tools or PSTs are just-in-time, specific job aids or learning aids designed to help learners perform better. This is accomplished by:

  • Providing or embedding the PSTs within the learner’s workflow.
  • Designing them to meet a specific learning need (to know more, fix a problem, enhance productivity, and so on).

Performance Support is an established concept and has been there for over three decades. Gloria Gery, one of its key champions summarizes it effectively as:

 “Performance Support focuses on work itself while training focuses on the learning required to do the work. Integrating resources in the workplace is inevitable, and the need is urgent. Filtering resources so people get the tools and resources they need while actively working is the goal. Work process and roles are the primary filters. The mechanisms vary: portals, performance-centered workflow interfaces, enterprise applications, integration projects, etc, but what’s important is that performer be able to name that tune in one note, to perform in exemplary fashion”.

What are the Key Benefits of Performance Support Tools or PSTs?

Given the pressure on time, we all like to work and learn at the same time. Performance Support Tools or PSTs enable learners to do precisely this. The key benefits of Performance Support Tools they offer are:

  1. Empower learners: PSTs enable learners to manage things on their own.
  2. Save time: PSTs enable learners to quickly zero in on the required information.
  3. Save time for the senior resources: They are required only on exceptional basis as the routine queries can be fulfilled through PSTs.
  4. Faster onboarding of new employees: The PSTs enable the new employees to pick up the tips, best practices outside of formal training and rise to the required proficiency.
  5. Simplified approach improves assimilation and application on the job: Since PSTs are designed to meet a specific need, they are easier to use and apply.
  6. Provide an effective channel to provide just-in-time updates: These could include new features, upgrades, or change management.

As you will see from the above said benefits of Performance Support Tools, usage of PSTs to support your formal training will go a long way in increasing its application on the job. Furthermore, an easy access to the required information facilitates the usage of the input and encourages a culture of continuous learning in the organization.

With increased adoption of mLearning or mobile learning, most of the corporate trainings can easily leverage on Performance Support Tools or PSTs to increase the impact of formal training.


I hope this blog gives you compelling reasons to opt for Performance Support Tools or PSTs (in case you haven’t so far). If you have any queries, do contact me at

Need More

Want more insights on how you can use the power of Performance Support Tools or PSTs to enhance the impact of your corporate training?

Schedule a call with our Solutions Architecting Team.


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Help – my captivate course doesn’t resume in talent LMS after using a button to access

Hi – I’m new to captivate and I have built a course which contains buttons to link to resources that might be useful to some learners. When I publish and upload to Talent LMS, clicking the button opens a new window to the resource.  When I close the resource, I get this error message and can’t resume the course. Is this a setting I need to review in captivate?


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Technology and its discontents

„The role of technology is under attack“, schreibt der Economist. Lange Zeit war die Rolle des technischen Fortschritts positiv besetzt. Jetzt heißt es „man versus algorithm“. Ich denke, auch die Diskussion um EdTech, also den Einfluss von Silicon Valley auf Bildung und Weiterbildung, die ja im letzten Jahr Fahrt aufgenommen hat, passt in dieses Bild.

„Today a “techlash” is under way. It comes in many forms, but two stand out. First, a belief that web titans such as Facebook, Amazon and Google have grown too dominant; and, second, a view that AI and algorithms are not transparent or accountable. Both concerns pit the individual against potentially overwhelming power—of the company, the platform, the algorithm.“

Economist, 16. April 2018

Bildquelle: Franck Veschi (Unsplash)