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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

Flexibility (April 2019)

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


April 15, 2019

Thirty-five years ago, Costa and Garmston developed Cognitive Coaching as a theoretical framework for supporting self-directedness and developing cognitive capacity. At the center of the work are the Five States of Mind. Wellman and Garmston applied the States of Mind concept to groups and referred to them as Energy Sources. As students of this work, these five concepts serve as a framework for analyzing the internal resources of both individuals and groups.

This month, we offer a review and strategies for intervening with each of the States of Mind/Energy Sources.


When we think of flexibility, we often think of stretching ourselves in new ways. That is true for this State of Mind/Energy Source which requires us to stretch both our options and our perspectives. A truly flexible person is able to generate and consider multiple approaches to decisions and choices. Flexible teams do not run with their first ideas, but push themselves out of the box by examining implications and assumptions of a variety of alternatives. Equally important to considering multiple options is the capacity to look beyond one’s own egocentric view, taking alternate perspectives. A truly flexible person can examine something through others’ filters such as race, culture, status, position, age, religion, etc. The same is true for groups. What first appears to be true, from our group’s experiences and point of view, may be a complete distortion from another point of view. White privilege is an example of how white people are unable to see the implications of their actions from their limited perspective. A strong and flexible group reaches beyond its boundaries to see the world through other lenses.

Ways to Intervene

When we collaborate instead of working autonomously, we naturally expose ourselves to other perspectives. Individuals seek flexibility by asking others what they might be missing. They seek out diverse perspectives through research and conversation with those not like them.

Groups who are flexible are constantly asking themselves questions like:

What other possibilities might we consider before deciding?

What other perspectives might we need to research?

Who have we not considered?

What limits might we putting on ourselves?


Under what conditions are you most flexible? How might you slow down and increase your flexibility? Considering a group you are a member of, what conscious strategies might you use to increase your capacity in this State of Mind?

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