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Polycrisis Agility - The Competence to Master Rapid Change

Unique times create opportunities.

Expecting the unexpected, keeping an open mind, and cultivating resilience will be second nature to those leading through the emerging future.

“Polycrisis” is a term popularised by Adam Tooze, an economic historian at Columbia University, in 2022. It refers to the multitude of crises that leaders face today. Juggling our emotions and thoughts around war, economic turbulence, drastic weather shifts, and global decline in health, to name a few.

All the while, trying to show up for our family, our career, the community, and our goals. The anxiety is mounting, and only because we're focusing on challenges we cannot control.

"The wind and the waves are always on the side of the ablest navigator." 18th-century historian, Edward Gibbons.

Polycrisis agility is our capacity to consistently re-centre ourselves in the truth. And the truth is that we can only master ourselves. In this way, we take back our attention, our energy, and our power, and redirect it towards what is in front of us.

Mastering agility isn't about reaching grandiose levels of success. The definition of success is changing. It's now about "What would I like my Wednesday to feel like?" as podcast host and Netflix star of The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn states. It's about owning what's in front of us.

"Polycrisis is not just a situation where you face multiple crises. It is a situation where the whole is even more dangerous than the sum of the parts." Adam Tooz

What does this mean for you?

So if what Adam Tooz says here is correct, one way to find agility is to re-engineer our perspectives by focusing on the part we play in the greater whole. In essence, utilising systemic thinking.

Below are few great questions for leaders within an organisation that elicit systemic thinking:

  1. What are my leadership priorities?

  2. How will I manage the time I need to allocate to my leadership role?

  3. What do I need to improve and change around here?

  4. What is the system doing to me and what am I doing to the system?

  5. What do I want to do with the power to change things that this role gives me?

Systemic thinking allows leaders to see their part as meaningful, as a unique contribution, and as imperative to influencing the greater whole. When we place our attention on what we can control, what is in front of us, and remove emotional attachment to areas of global crisis that we cannot transform through worry, we develop polycrisis agility.

Own your state of happiness.

It's time we made happiness an inside job. Not just meme about it, but step into it. Redefine what it looks like. The small things. And then lead boldly into it. Leaders of the future are those who capitalise on their present resources to help them make great decisions. Decisions that ultimately feed their peace of mind and positively impact the greater eco-system.


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