Project Management

Emotional Intelligence: The Power to Access Our Agile Mindset

Amy Whicker started her career as a computer science professor. She taught many computer languages and the theory behind waterfall and agile. After nine years of teaching, Amy decided to transition into industry, where she played many different roles on agile teams and became an instant agile enthusiast. Amy is active in the agile community. She was one of the lead organizers for the Mile High Agile 2017 conference in Denver and spoke on failure at the 2017 Southern Fried Agile Conference in Charlotte, NC. She now uses her skills acquired as a professor and an agile team member to coach and consult on agile growth and transformation. Visit Amy at

From a very early age, we were all practicing the agile mindset, and without even knowing it. For instance, learning to walk. We tried. We fell. We got up. We repeated the cycle over and over and over. It required resilience, optimism and determination to learn from failure. We were fearless: We had never walked before and had no proof that we would ever be good at it. Then one day, we mastered it and achieved our goal. It was this achievement that started our agile journey through life.

The agile mindset is something we already know, so teaching it is easier than we might have thought. It is unleashed when we are in a positive emotional state; the fixed mindset occurs when we are in a negative emotional state (you can learn more about the two mindsets in my previous article[i]). Emotional intelligence is key in transitioning to our agile mindset.

Uncomfortable emotions are learning opportunities
Uncomfortable emotions alert us that we have an opportunity to learn. In school, if we received a grade of 100% we had no opportunity to learn anything new at that moment and we felt comfortable. Yet if we received a 60%, we probably felt uncomfortable and there was opportunity to learn. When the teacher reviews the answers, we either listen or disconnect.

How we respond to uncomfortable emotions determines if we can learn. When we embrace our uncomfortable feeling of getting…

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"Man is a game-playing animal, and a computer is another way to play games."

- Scott Adams