Workplace Adaptability: Winning The Future Talent War
It is becoming painfully apparent that we’re on the cusp of a new reality that necessitates workplace adaptability. We are actively living with five unprecedented crises simultaneously facing us: a global pandemic, an economic calamity, the racial and social justice crisis, the dilemmas of an all-digital, work-anywhere environment, and an ever-growing leadership chasm. And, I think this needs to awaken all of us that our future is quickly becoming significantly different than our past.
The ability to adapt to our surroundings is more critical now than ever with the uncertainty facing us in our ever-evolving world. Historically, most organizations and their leadership relied on intelligence quotient (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ) to manage the talent war. But are they accurate predictors of leadership and the workplace adaptability needed to navigate these evolving circumstances as well as the mental and psychological drive to succeed?
It goes without saying, but accomplishing anything of substance, whether in the business world, the government, non-profit, or a sports organization, requires a team of logical, smart, and empathetic people. Working in concert toward one goal, they can move mountains. That said, are IQ and EQ factors enough to predict future success in today’s talent war and digital workforce?
Yes, IQ and EQ are important historically. That being said, workplace adaptability is another quality that I would argue is becoming as important if not more important than IQ and EQ in measuring a candidate’s talent quotient. The real value of adaptability has taken center stage in these tumultuous times. They have revealed that future performance may be better judged by the adaptability quotient (“AQ”). I believe in facing these calamities it is the new competitive advantage.
I like to think of it this way: “Adaptability compels originality, and originality necessitates adaptability.”
We adjust to our environment by tuning in to and noticing clients. We improve by designating authority, frequently to groups working at the most minimal degrees of the association. We adapt by following, reacting to, and in any event, empowering the advancement of new innovations and theories. However, are workplace adaptability, IQ, and EQ reciprocal ideas proper in various circumstances, over various time-spans, and because of various difficulties?
I believe both adaptability and traditional talent measurements (IQ and EQ) have their place. They allow us to focus on our core yet invigorate progress. I believe, IQ and EQ, epitomize propensity, and adaptability allow us to focus and consider what’s going on around us and the resilience to adjust to the evolving crisis.
Adaptability is a current assertion of competitive advantage in a world loaded with vulnerability at all levels, especially in each of us individually. Versatility helps your company evade the competition and deliver immense value to your customers. Because of this, it’s essential to prioritize adaptability in your organization and to appropriately measure it in your day-to-day work.
The Rise of the All-Digital Environment Necessitates a Growing Focus on Adaptability
So why is adaptability so important? There are plenty of reasons. Our interconnected and globalized world is constantly changing. Today’s trends can disappear in an instant. If it wasn’t clear before, it is now. We are all in digital environments wherever we work. For our customers, their trading strength must be everywhere. Your customer service organization must be everywhere. Your marketing organization must be everywhere. And everyone because of the pandemic must be able to work from anywhere, which is an integral part of how we will achieve future productivity.
The rise of this all-digital environment accelerates this pace of change, forcing organizations and individuals to continually alter how they conduct business. While focus groups and Big Data can help to anticipate near-term trends, they do little to actually ride the waves of change that are around us.
And while much of workplace adaptability is focused outward, the resilience aspect requires us to look inward. It may be counter-intuitive, but looking inward is a crucial step toward becoming more adaptable at work.
Why Looking Inward Enables Workplace Adaptability
Mahatma Gandhi has so many words of wisdom, but there is one quote that is especially relevant here. He once said, “I must reduce myself to zero.” By reducing ourselves to zero, we essentially get a fresh start. We’re able to leverage the veil of ignorance and release ourselves from our conditioned mind that governs our day-to-day lives.
While it is impossible to completely eliminate our hidden biases and preconceived notions, reducing ourselves to zero means that we are looking at the world through fresh eyes. This is important because we can be more original. We reason from first principles and dramatically reduce all forms of creative resistance—like procrastination and our inner critics. Along with this, looking inward enables our leadership acumen, grit, analytical skills, risk tolerance, and more.
So for those organizations and individuals who want to become more adaptable, I recommend following Gandhi’s wisdom. Reduce yourself to zero and deliberately try placing your preconceived ideas and notions to the side. Reason upwards and focus on sharpening your ability to adapt to change. Experiment and gather data. Doing so, you’re bound to see positive results.
Assessing Workplace Adaptability in Times of Crisis
Looking inward is vital to advance anyone’s ability to adapt. However, the related question is how to gauge that ability to change when you are evaluating someone else?
I think there are three crucial things to keep in mind here.
First, take a hard look at the individual or company’s track record. Failure is inevitable in any business. The larger question, however, is whether those failures created opportunities for future innovation?
Did the individual or company bounce back from a failure by quickly pivoting?
If they kept experiencing failures, did they keep pivoting and not giving up?
These are the sorts of questions that you should be asking. Failure is inevitable, but using that failure as an opportunity for future innovation is less inevitable.
“Adaptability compels originality, and originality necessitates adaptability“
Next, I want you to ask whether the individual or business is continuously challenging what they presume to “know.” As Natalie Fratto argued in a recent TED Talk, you want to be looking for unlearning signs. Examine if (and when) these individuals or companies have looked at their prior beliefs or theories and have pivoted due to new information. This can be as small as an antiquated hiring practice a company has changed or as large as a CEO dramatically changing course to prioritize new business opportunities.
Unlearning can be one of the most challenging things for individuals and companies, so the ones that can reduce themselves to zero and challenge their preconceived notions are definitely worth watching.
Finally, ask whether signals of change are read and acted upon. You may be able to get a sense of this when looking at the individual or organization’s track record, but I want you to specifically focus on this question.
Even if the track record is positive, it doesn’t tell you whether the company or individual could have capitalized on even more opportunities.
Speak with that individual or members of those companies to get below the surface and conclude whether they emphasize action, not just words.
Embracing the Ability to Adapt to Win the Talent War
Workplace Adaptability is all too critical when facing our five mega-crises and especially the growing talent war. No matter the size of your organization or your individual career goals, developing your ability to adapt to change can be a substantial competitive advantage.
When evaluating others’ adaptability, keep these questions in mind. In the end, the individual or company that can adapt fastest will be rewarded in spades.
As Gandhi properly proclaimed, it all starts with reducing oneself to zero.
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