21st Century Decathletes and Versagility by Bob Wiele © 2015
When I think of what it takes today to succeed in the workplace and in life, it seems that each of us has to be more and more like a decathlete. We all need to have skills in so many areas. Decathletes compete in ten events over two days. They need to have speed to run very fast in the 100 metres. They need to have the endurance to run long enough in the 1500. They have to have the power to throw a heavy iron ball in the shot put. They need agility and timing to do the pole vault. They need to jump over a lot of hurdles. They need to bend over backwards in the high jump. And they need to be able to demonstrate five very different skills on one day and then turn around and demonstrate five different skills on the next day. Sound familiar?
Andy Higgins, Canadian member of the Coaches Hall of Fame has been a long time Olympic decathlon coach. He told me that 25 years ago, a decathlete could win if they were excellent in four or five events and only so-so in the other events. Now he said, to compete and win, the successful decathlete has to be good enough in all ten events. Today’s decathlete can’t simply rely on getting by with their strengths.
We all need to be like decathletes in the workplace. We need versagility!
Versagility is a new word I came up with. It is like the mental equivalent to a decathlete. Versagility is the mental ability to shift quickly and effectively from one type of thinking to another, to adapt, respond and deal effectively with changing demands, tasks, people and opportunities. Versagility combines two ideas – versatility meaning having a diverse range of thinking skills – critical, analytical and creative – with agility’s speed, nimbleness and adaptability. The opposite of versagility is rigidity, inflexibility and single-minded thinking.
Versagility is a mental skill set. It is learnable. It is increasingly a foundational skill at work and in relationships. Versagility is a core 21st century skill for success. Versagility? Let me know what you think of versagility.