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Teach: Flexibility Tools

The tools on this page can be used to teach agility, adaptability, or flexibility.
Request tools created by the Project on Positive Leadership
• Tell our community about how you use these tools and ask other users for advice on our LinkedIn groups page
• If you have tools you like to use and are willing to share them with us, let us know


Sluggishness, Agility, and Over-reactiveness Stories

Free tool available upon request from the Project on Positive Leadership.

  • Author: Ryan Quinn
  • Date: 2020
  • Series: Virtues and Vices
  • Pages: 7
  • Summary: This tool is one of the tools that makes up the Project on Positive Leadership’s “Virtues and Vices” series of instructional tools. It contains four stories of agility, sluggishness, or over-reactiveness. A tool with multiple stories enables students to examine what is required to exhibit ideal agility across different settings, and to account for the differing perspectives of multiple stakeholders. Each story includes carefully-crafted reflection questions to provoke the students’ learning, to prepare them for class, to prepare themselves to practice agility, and to motivate them to be more mindful about their approach to leadership.

The Marshmallow Challenge

  • Activity
    • Price: The teaching instructions are free online, but the instructor must purchase marshmallows, spaghetti, tape, and string
    • By Tom Wujec
    • TED talk about activity
  • Summary: This is useful for teaching agility through what design thinkers call “the iterative process.” Wujec describes this in the accompanying TED talk. The activity can also be used to talk about learning goals and growth mindsets. What Wujec refers to as prototypes would be referred to in other literature as plans, strategies, and so forth. The key, in the end, is to tie the discussion back to leadership and what agility looks like when it exceeds convention.

The Tent-Building Exercise

  • Activity
    • Price: The instructions are free but tents and blindfolds must be purchased
    • By Venture Team Building
  • Summary: There are different versions of this activity. This website contains just one. The activity requires high investment, given the need for tents, blindfolds, a large enough location to build tents, and so forth. Additionally, it is important to assign some people to be “safety engineers” who make sure participants do not bump into things or poke each other with the pieces. They can also be helpful for observing social dynamics. When the activity is done, I ask them why some teams completed the activity more quickly with less errors than others. When they offer their hypotheses, I ask other teams how their hypotheses compare with the experiences of the other teams. I also talk about how action creates information, so you have to act in order to get the information that will tell you how to change how you are acting. I also help them see how in the best group, leadership changes — sometimes even from moment to moment—as people listen to and follow those who have the most relevant information for the task at hand. Low-performing groups often have members who cannot let go of the leadership once they have it. This provides another avenue for discussing how to lead with adaptability.