I use this word a lot —I think we all do. In competency-based interviews (!) “Tell me about a time when you had to show adaptability…” is a standard one.

But it’s a REALLY powerful word.

It (roughly) means someone has done something to ensure an outcome via a process or system that wasn’t designed to deliver it under the circumstances you now face. You were adaptable and showed adaptability.

I’ve just done 4x sessions over 2 days at a client Leadership Programme that was in person. Bar one session where the speaker dialled in. So in this situation, people were in a shared space, and in proximity to each other. And to people like me as facilitators.

Mine was part of a breakout type session, not in the main hall.

I was working through the concepts of Growth Mindset (and before anyone asks, I’m a Growth Mindset realist — and I don’t demonise or glamourise either Growth or Fixed mindsets — I believe they both have their uses but we’re a little overly romantic on Growth Mindset).

I also got folks into discovering more about Psychological Safety — an illusionary state I’m quite happy to say is situationally real and impactful at the moment it matters.

I also covered (where I could) some Cynefin. I think these 3 things combine well and all interplay.

Where I could, I got some hierarchy-busting self-management and Agile ways of operating into the mix. None of the sessions were the same but they had similarities.

Anyway, this isn’t to share what I did but how I did it.

Over 65 minutes, 30 minutes was in pairs/threes using User Story-type hypotheses and models; and discussion and application of some of the theories in the above content.

At least 15 was plenary discussion and shares.

Which makes 20 minutes of delivery by me of the concepts and models, stories and illustrations.

If this was a webinar, it would be 50 minutes of monologue, some chat questions and 15 minutes of interactive Q&A.

I think I could have achieved the same objectives. But the format — in close proximity to other human beings — meant this took on a different shape and flow.

I enjoyed it, but then again, I enjoy delivering webinars.

I got the sense my participants (I don’t like calling them delegates or even learners) also enjoyed it. It wasn’t different content, it was done differently.

Just like ALL our (knowledge) work. I say knowledge because with health and social care, logistics, utility provision, manufacturing etc it HAS to be done in proximity to other people, equipment etc.

So ALL our knowledge work pretty much can be done well in either close proximity to others or in dispersed, digitally connected versions of it.

You can get the same outcomes (largely) and some things are better than others in either situation.

The past few days — for example — weren’t recorded and can’t be re-played. That’s a bit of a shame/loss for those unable to come to any of the sessions.

In a webinar, for example, I couldn’t sense how everyone felt as it’s a bit tough when they’re in a breakout room but you’re not there.

So it was different. I had to show adaptability. By the minute.

Proximity determined I delivered it differently. I enjoyed the challenge of more interactivity, responsiveness and being able to sense people.

I’ve delivered a webinar (similar) to this and also enjoyed that.

The main outcomes/impact was achieved in both situations.

So I think we really can stop demonising dispersed/proximity-based working and just recognise they’re different and we do it differently in each scenario.

Focus on the outcomes. Tune into what you need to do, say and how to be, as the facilitator depending on proximity or dispersed status.

Hybrid is a very over-used phrase right now and doesn’t massively help. In-person proximity means some stuff is better some stuff not so. Virtual means some stuff is better that way, some not.

Hybrid means a mix of the two and potentially the worst of the two options.

I know it’s not binary but when it’s delivering something like learning, creative work or whatever, in some ways, virtual is best and in others, in-person is best but it’s still how you show adaptability and deliberately design for the different vibe and circumstances that suit.

The outcome is all-important. As is the experience to affect the outcome.

So I’ve come up with this: The Anywhere Manifesto. For knowledge work. In an attempt to get us off the in/out/hybrid circling argument.

And it’s been adjusted (and adapted) by one of the best in the “business” Neil Usher.

So if this helps, great. But let’s show adaptability anywhere, and everywhere. Because as they say in football, one size does not Fitz Hall.

Perry Timms and Neil Usher — freely use it but please attribute it back to us.