In the business world, we’re used to hearing terms like “agile” and “flexible.” But what does any of it really mean? We all know that businesses have a habit of jumping on the next buzzword and getting all exciting about it. But there’s a difference between walking the walk and talking the talk.

The term agility probably more accurately refers to small businesses, rather than big corporations. Take the recent fiasco involving the Samsung Note 7 battery. The company spent months trying to sort out the problem and resolve supply chain issues. And yet, even now, people are having problems with their handsets, months after the problem was first identified.

Small businesses, on the other hand, can change their production plans quickly. Heck, some companies, like Disney Pixar, changed their entire business model overnight. Being small, therefore, means being agile and able to respond to new environments. It’s this dynamism that is the strength of small businesses in the face of stiff competition from the big players. So what does flexibility look like on the ground?

Connected Workplaces

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Part of being an agile business is changing the way that you see the office. Flexible working spaces, like the Guardian Business Center, shouldn’t just be a place to go to work. They should be a place that forms a part of your working nexus. These days, productivity isn’t just something that happens within the walls of an office. It’s something that’s going on all the time. The modern office needs to reflect this new reality. It’s not about row upon row of workers doing rote tasks anymore. It’s about turning the office into a living, breathing hub where ideas can come together.

Create Intrinsic Motivation In Employees

Agile organizations try to shift from external rewards to internal motivation among their employees. Employees who only seek out external rewards will only ever work reactively. They won’t seek out new opportunities to do things better or build new products. Employees who are intrinsically motivated, however, are a different story. They’re not looking for external rewards, they just want to do what’s best for the company. As a result, they'll be proactive in their approach. Helping your business react to changing market situations more rapidly.

No Hierarchies

There’s nothing that puts a lid on innovation and agility more than hierarchies. In a hierarchical organization, not all ideas are considered equally. Instead, a small cadre at the top decides on the direction of the company, and everybody else follows suit. Not surprisingly, the biases of the leadership often cloud the correct direction to take. And employees themselves feel as if they have no agency or power.

Without that sense of agency, employees won’t innovate or try new things. Instead, they’ll keep doing the same old things that don’t work until the company is run into the ground.

The best way to solve this problem is to have a horizontal management structure. Each person in a team should be able to have a voice and affect the direction of a project.