I can’t control it if it rains, but I can bring an umbrella to help protect against the storm.
Change is the only consistency in life. Everyone has a path but not everyone can easily adapt when it changes, especially when the change is sudden or uncontrollable.
Consistency can provide comfort and security, because it is proven, structured, and known. Unstoppable change is daunting to embrace because there is no universal solution. But there is a universal approach: Adaptability.
An Adaptability Quotient (AQ) is a theoretical measure that looks at how well someone reacts to change. A strong combination of Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and Emotional Quotient (EQ) might help land a job, but a high AQ is critical for longevity and success over time. As research grows on adaptability so does the desire to quantify it.
Those who are highly adaptable often choose to engage with the unknown and are predicting and influencing the change rather than responding to it.
Adaptability can be practiced, all that is needed is the motivation to improve.
Here are three actionable insights to consider:
The goal is to be ambidextrous in how we think. Unlearning and then relearning forces people to challenge what they already know by creating an alternative mental model or paradigm. It is not forgetting what we know but letting it go in order to think with an open mind. Mental models are usually based on learned decisions made unconsciously.
For example, in the 1950s Crayola had a lightly pigmented crayon called “Flesh”. Having one shade represent all flesh was problematic and representative of the embeddedness of racial bias within North American businesses of this time. It wasn’t until 1962, Crayola the name was changed “Flesh” to “Peach” for the unlearning of flesh being represented by a single shade.
The steps to relearning are:
- Recognizing the old way of functioning
- Identifying the new knowledge
- Practicing it to make it a habit
This process is called neuroplasticity. It allows the brain to adjust its response to challenging conditions. Benefits are the ability to see and understand from different perspectives.
This is about taking control of change by seeking it out. Typically, it’s only when things go wrong is when change is addressed; to take control of change, we must continuously reevaluate to look for improvements. A different approach is a lot less threatening and difficult when we are more prepared.
Blockbuster and Blackberry are classic business examples of companies that failed to continuously seek out the future. Whereas their competitors Netflix and Apple pivoted their business models to innovate. Even their vision statements express a desire to continue to reevaluate the environment, Netflix’s “See what’s next” and Apple’s “Think different.”
When reevaluating, take the time to learn by actively observing, listening, and participating in an environment. Be in touch with your core value systems and non-negotiables. Once in tune with your surroundings and yourself then you can think of the big picture on what could be modified in your work or life that would add value.
- Know your environment
- Know your values
- Look for ways to modify
Life is unpredictable, which is why it’s so important to be resourceful and see opportunities where others see failure. This means focusing on ways to proactively solve problems and learn from failed attempts.
To do this, redefine the problem because it determines your mindset reaction.
“This is really hard.” → “What can I do to make it easier?”
“I can’t do this.” → “What could I do differently?”
“That didn’t work.” → “What if I tried this?”
Natalie Fratto of Goldman Sachs, suggests asking “what if…” because it’s a future-focused question, rather than dwelling on what is wrong in the present or past. This question also frames multiple outcomes.
Take aviation pioneers the Wright brothers, they asked: “what if humans could fly?” An absurd question for this time because it had never been done, but they saw an opportunity. Learning from several failed attempts, their curiosity and determination then, is what allows us to fly now.
Successful individuals will not be measured on their ability to do one thing exceptionally well, but the resilience and ability to evolve with new demands.
Change is constant. Growth is optional.
The hope is that through improving your personal adaptability your relationship with uncontrollable change is well… changed.