When you think about agility, agility in sports and physical agility is adapting to rapidly changing things in your environment and respond with speed, power, and accuracy. If you are on a soccer pitch and that new thing is an opponent who is coming down the field or who is trying to take the ball away from you it is very easy to perceive that person, what they are doing, and you can also know what it is that you need to do in response to that.
When you are talking about cultural agility, culture very often the things that you need to pay attention to and respond to are very subtle and they are hidden in nuance. We meet on the playing field of business and in business we dress pretty much alike, we speak about the same things that are important to us, but this often masks the assumptions and the differences in world views that we have and while we are working on the business part, often the information that we can receive that is critical to building relationship and to being more effective and acting together it gets disregarded or we just simply don’t know how to perceive it. So it kind of hits the trash can or it goes way back in our mind until we go “Oh, that is what that was about.” That is perception. The second part is then how do you act? How do you know how to act in a way that will be relevant and received and important to the other person?
Cultural agility is perceiving cultural nuances, adapting to them with speed, power, and accuracy the same way if you were playing ball on the soccer pitch or on a basketball court.