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We Are More Than A Sum Of Our Resumes


You wouldn’t introduce yourself like that, especially not in the workplace; these tidbits of information may eventually be shared in confidence to colleagues. Whether this be in jest or serious conversation. But if you were heading an interview and this was how a candidate introduced theirself, what are the odds you would look for a hidden camera, wondering whether they were serious or not.


All of the above are true, but, it certainly summarises what many have proposed when it comes to agile working. As Daniel Pink said: we are more than a sum of our resumes. Every application for the same role in a company oozes a cookie-cutter sense of professionalism which can be enhanced with a winning personality at interview. But it isn’t until you work with a person that you may learn something about them. Would you have known that your dental receptionist, Carol has dyslexia? Of course not. You just know she’s Carol, the chatty woman that answers the phone when you book in for a deep clean.


What Anna Sandberg suggested in her interview with Forbes back in April 2021 was that “an important tactic is to train people in many different ways”. This can be interpreted as a nod to the idea that a team requires many skilled individuals with varying expertise working on your projects, in order to cover your bases, or, as the idea that people engage with the world differently.


Every person you interact with is their own individual, every face in the crowd has their own story, and no two people see the world in the exact same way, despite similar if not the same norms, values, beliefs and experiences being thrust upon them. Even twins do not mirror each other’s worldview, because, they are not one entity, they are separate.


Anne Cantelo suggested in her TED talk that people work differently, some, like her herself, are more productive in the evening, suggesting that working remotely allows for individuals to tackle their daily routine in the way that best suits them. And, of course, after the duration of Covid19 lockdown restrictions in the UK, there are mixed opinions about a return to the original 9-5 working environment.


The VAK model, coined by Walter Burke Barbe in the 1980s, and could be implemented in support of Sandberg’s idea. The idea behind the model is that after a series of questions, individuals can be pigeonholed into a category of learning which suits them best: Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic. This model was put into circulation at secondary schools for older students to gage how they would best understand the information being presented to them during lessons, and to give them tips on how best to improve their revision in anticipation of their GCSE qualifications.


With this in mind, I asked small sample of eight young adults the following: In an ideal world, as an employee, what kind of place would you like to work in, irrespective of field?


Those who answered my question had a general consensus that they not only wanting the working environment to be engaging and enjoyable (3 of 8), but they also wanted it to be accommodating to their needs where possible (6 of 8). This made me think back to an example my friend Jack*, who has severe Generalised Anxiety Disorder, had at a previous job. This job happened to be his first one in the retail sector.

While he was working at this role, he had been given a shift of video-based training in the back office, followed by a singular shift of being a shadow to a more experienced colleague, watching them manoeuvre the back of the store, use the till and lotto machine. He had found being put on the shop floor the next shift very overwhelming, and was riddled with anxiety about doing something wrong and being oblivious as to how to rectify it that for multiple shifts he belled for a supervisor’s clarification, multiple times, to be sure he was doing things correctly.


This lead to him being informed off-the-cuff that if he were to continue doing this, he would be fired for being a nuisance to his superiors. Frightened of the idea of losing his job, he proposed to his manager that if he wrote all of the information down in a little notebook he could have with him on the shop floor, he could receive instant clarification instead of panicking he was doing something wrong, and even revise the information during slow periods. His workplace, although reluctantly, allowed him this accommodation, and he had no such problems with being a nuisance to his colleagues again.


In hindsight, I believe that the likelihood is that Jack* would have been recognised via the test as an visual learner, although, it was most likely that he was a Reading learner, as part of a development of VAK, explored by Neil Fleming, where the idea of learning through reading and internally reciting information was acknowledged to be an equally viable learning process, thus extending the concept to include an initial for that comprehensive process, and developing the VARK model.


But what does this have to do with agility, and Sandberg’s idea?


In short, Jack* finally internalised the information from starting this role in a manner that worked for him, by reading, and reciting information. This, not only, meant that he could keep his anxiety at bay, by reminding himself that he had done something correctly, because that was how the process was written, but it also meant that the fact his workplace had allowed him to have that little notebook with him, thus accommodating for his anxious disposition, meant he could retain his employment in the store. Participant One acknowledged that in their ideal workplace, they would want an employer that was “forgiving of the mistakes of new employees”, which, Jack*, was fortunately able to experience in his role.


Prior to having gained this job, Jack* had not felt comfortable disclosing the details of his mental health issues, and he had found himself fortunate that he had been able to implement his own practice to better suit his working process to retain his position in the working environment. Having a workplace that is able to provide such space for their colleagues is ideal and promotes a sense of belonging in the workplace, just as Participant Seven said, the ideal place to work, is one that is “accommodating to [your] needs”.


An agile workplace thrives due to the nature of communication. By being able to express areas that you are struggling with, in an environment that is understanding, and as Participant Six said “helps you grow to be a better employee”. With this in mind, creating a healthy working environment where needs can be addressed, and the workplace can be tailored in a way to assist the team in ways that suit them, would certainly help build a positive workplace culture. This is demonstrated by the fact that of the eight young people that discussed their ideal workplace to us, that they want to be in a workplace that understands their needs and provides them with, what Participant Seven described as a place “in which my work could flourish”.


Think about it this way: if a blind person, or someone with a visual impairment was to visit a restaurant, many establishments would provide them with the option to have the menu in Braille. Equally establishments worldwide are praised for having employees that know sign language to better assist those who are deaf, hard of hearing or have hearing impairments. Especially in the current climate, where lip-reading is not a mainstream option for people without a mask being removed etc. Perhaps, for this particular example, employees should be trained in how to serve customers who are deaf the same way they would serve a customer that was blind? That is forward thinking. That is problem solving. That is understanding feedback being given by a community to the wider world, and acting upon it. That is agile ideas in practice.



Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The Agile Works (www.TheAgileWorks.com), is an up-and-coming recruitment and Agile consulting company. Arvind is a Certified SAFe SPC and regularly delivers both private and public SAFe certification workshops.


He is a design thinking expert, Sr. enterprise, portfolio Agile Coach with over a decade of experience working as an Agile coach in diverse industries such as banking, pharma, retail, auto, oil, gas, consulting and government.


Agile Works; a small team of three strive to help shape the leadership's mind-set and values in readiness for their business transformation journey challenges. With Arvind at the helm, we strive to provide you with the agility tools to make your company that can thrive, and not just survive.


To book a consultation, or for any enquiries, you can contact Arvind via the following email address: arvind@theagileworks.com


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