5 Adaptability Skills You need to Thrive in the 2020’s

Amy Lewis, AQai Certified Partner
March 3, 2021
Adaptability
March 3, 2021

Futurists such as Ray Kurzweil have argued that technological changes are accelerating today at such unprecedented speed that it’s hard to even imagine what our world will look like in a decade. We could see more change in the next 10 years than we have in the previous 100. The World Economic Forum reports that 40% of jobs that exist today will not exist in 10 years.

As we approach the 1-year anniversary of global lockdowns due to the Pandemic, it’s clear the world of work will never be the same. This pace of change is quickening, and that level of change and uncertainty can create a great deal of fear.

How you relate to change and uncertainty is a quality called Adaptability; and it’s the super- power that everyone on this planet needs to develop.

It’s the difference between thriving and declining. Adaptability is the capacity to adjust thoughts and behaviors in order to effectively respond to uncertainty and change.

How do you respond to change and how do you relate to the uncertainty of the future? Are you naturally open to change and disruption or would you prefer to stay under the covers and pretend that you can make it all stay the same?

The most extreme change I’ve experienced occurred about twenty years ago. I was 28 years old and had just lost my husband and business partner after a brief 11-day illness. He was my romantic partner and my business partner and my whole life was wrapped up with his. As I lay on the sofa in the days after his passing, I remember thinking if I was going to survive this experience, my body needed to become malleable; I had the image in my head of Gumby flexing his clay body. If I didn’t allow myself to bend, I was certain I would be crushed. Instinctively, I allowed my mind, heart and body to be molded and changed by the event. I surrendered to not knowing how to do grief and adopted a beginner’s mind. I look back at the experience as the turning point of my life that awakened me to my spirituality, my authentic self and my path which I am extremely grateful for.

Looking through the lens of adaptability, I can see I was using the skill of unlearning, resilience and mental flexibility. I was practicing adaptability.

Adaptability is not a static trait. The great news is adaptability is a skill that can be measured and improved.

AQai is a company of entrepreneurs and behavioral scientists whose mission is to unlock the secrets of human adaptability, ensuring no-one is left behind in the fastest period of change in history.

I had the pleasure of studying with these wonderful and inspiring leaders last month where I earned a certification in AQai. Their research showed adaptability can be measured over dimensions in 3 categories: Abilities, Character and Environment. The Abilities are the most malleable and can be improved with coaching and training.

They include:

Grit is the ability to ‘stay the course’, to follow through when approaching important goals. Grit is essential to adapt successfully as it provides the stamina to stay on course and move constructively towards our goals in changing times.

Mental flexibility refers to the ability to accept, appreciate, and embrace competing demands or problems. It allows one to see tensions or trade-offs in everyday or business life as opportunities that allow innovative ways to learn and ultimately adapt.

Mindset is the general outlook that change and adaptation will result in positive outcomes rather than negative ones. Mindset is a cognitive ability that can be shaped out of how one reflects on past events. As a belief about positive outcomes, it equips individuals to move towards their goals and adapt successfully. They are more able to adjust to stressful life events and hence cope better with changes at work.

Resilience refers to ‘the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness’, or, in other words, the ability to ‘bounce back’. As a learnable skill, resilience plays a major role in effectively adapting, especially when facing unpredictable, and continual change. It facilitates rapid experimentation, because one can only truly experiment if you’re prepared to fail.

Unlearn is the ability to be able to ‘let go of’ and rethink the status quo, reassess skills, or adjust old methodologies that are no longer relevant. It represents the balance between learning new things, and disregarding old data. It encompasses an open mindedness to try new ways of doing things even if they outmode previous ideas or knowledge.

As a learning and development leader, I find this last one “unlearn” to be most intriguing, and it’s a great place to start reflecting on your level of adaptability. You’ve probably heard the phrase “what got you here, won’t get you there.”

Begin reflecting on your current life and work experience. What are do you need to “let go of” to thrive in your current world?

By becoming more aware of the dimensions of adaptability and of your own skill level, you can gain more confidence that whatever the future holds, you’ll be able to thrive.  

To learn your AQ score and how to improve your team’s adaptability skills, reach out to me or visit amylewiscoaching.com.

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