Balancing agility and essentialism


Your next great breakthrough could be around the corner.  Your next big sale could come on the next call.  You might hit the jackpot on your next pull.

But there’s an opportunity cost to each of these too.

You can continue seeking the next great opportunity.  You can keep chasing new ideas.  You can explore every avenue, work in short sprints, keep adding to your project list.

Sometimes agility is used as an excuse for a lack of strategy.  Multi-tasking can make busy-making justified as a replacement for focus and progress.

Warren Buffett has become incredibly successful and wealthy by (in his words) “saying no as much as possible.”

This doesn’t mean he’s closed to new ideas.  It doesn’t mean he’s not exploring new investments.  He’s just pursuing a much, much smaller number of those opportunities than most others.

The idea of Essentialism (especially as documented wisely by Greg McKeown) is to ruthlessly eliminate distraction and stay as focused as possible.  But in order to execute what’s most essential, Essentialism requires you first to explore (be open to new ideas) then eliminate (cut out those that are, in essence, non-essential).

In this sense, agility can nicely co-exist with essentialism.  In fact, aggressive exploration is a requirement in order to find the very small percentage of priorities you should say yes to and commit to.

The lesson for me in all of this has been to eliminate more, and eliminate more quickly.  Keep learning, keep thinking, keep brainstorming.  But constantly eliminate and focus.

Easier said than done, but – well – essential to success.