Lessons From Bruce Lee for Agile Practitioners

Lessons From Bruce Lee for Agile Practitioners

Lessons From Bruce Lee for Agile Practitioners

The world we operate in today is unmistakably VUCA – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. 

Agile is often considered the “blue pill” that helps you cope with VUCA. Seeing #Bruce Lee‘s famous quote in the “The Game Changers” movie recently it flashed – This is so relevant for agile practitioners.

Research your own experience. Absorb what is useful, Reject what is useless, Add what is essentially your own.

Bruce Lee

For anyone looking to be agile in a VUCA world, these words provide a beacon, a direction. Not just being agile, they apply in many contexts in pursuit of work and personal goals alike. For now, we look at it from the lens of agile and being an agile practitioner.

Research Your Own Experience

Agile Methodology Tips

The world of agile is full of frameworks, approaches and practices. Learn and explore them from a neutral place. Be the observer. The researcher. It’s very easy to develop biases. Especially if you practice only a few of them again and again. Still don’t shut the others out. Remember context is king. What we have in agile is good practices. There are no best practices that you can just port over. Find opportunities to experiment and use what you learn. Form your own experiences. Have your own interpretations. They are generally far deeper and enriching than the point of view of others; however detailed and popular they are.

Absorb What is Useful

Keep experimenting. You will find some of the practices useful. They work better with your individual style compared to the others and in a given context. They have brought you better results. Absorb what works for you, what you have had success with and not just because others accept it as more useful. As agile practitioners, you are craftsmen. Have your own “bag of tools” like any skilled craftsman. A tool and a craftsman are not separate. Their union brings the results. When a practice is used in real life, it's not just about the practice. How it is used and gets implemented matters as well. Enrich your “bag of tools” to suit multiple contexts. Maintain it actively.

Reject What Is Useless

With 70 million new posts on WordPress itself every month, there is really a lot of information out there. Follow wisely. The best way is to not take anything at face value. Question. Experiment.  See it working (or not working) for yourself and learn from your experience. Don’t be shy to be critical even if it’s contrary to the popular opinion and know that things can change. What you consider useless today may become useful later and vice versa. That’s the only way to ensure that your “bag of tools” has items that are really useful to you.

Add What is Essentially Your Own


As you gain experiences, the “bag of tricks” will have your adaptations. This largely depends on the experiments you did and the diversity of experiences you collected. As Steve Jobs says in his now famous quote “A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.” Becoming a non-linear thinker is fundamental to being agile and ensuring that your “bag of tools” is your own.

Bruce Lee realized that martial arts styles in his time had become rigid and unrealistic. He called those martial arts competitions “dry land swimming”. For him combat was spontaneous and you cannot predict, only react to it. To be able to do that, a good martial artist needs to “be like water” – fluid. The same is true in the world of agile today.

The VUCA world needs us to “be like water” and Lee’s advice helps us to do just that.

Research. Absorb. Reject. Make It Your Own !!

Bruce Lee lived those words through his philosophy and fighting style “Jeet Kune Do”. Let those immortal words illuminate our paths as agile practitioners as we navigate our ways through the VUCA world.

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Hrishikesh Karekar

Agile Expert

Hrishikesh is a Director, Financial Services BU at Capgemini. He has 19+ years of experience in IT software industry playing high responsibility roles as Agile Transformation Lead, Agile Coach, Program Manager, Delivery Manager, Technical Project Manager, Technical Lead & Software Engineer. Hrishikesh is passionate about building high performing teams, taking individuals and teams on a journey of excellence and satisfaction. His vision of Agile is not just about implementing effective, efficient and lean processes, but transforming people’s mindsets – to deliver better ROI and real business benefits. Hrishikesh holds a Bachelor of Engineering, Production Engineering from VJTI, University of Mumbai.

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