Change is the only constant
We live in an era of risk and instability. Globalization, new technologies, a pandemic and a recession have combined to upend everything we know to be normal which has created a deep sense of unease. These combinations of factors make adaptability an important skill to master. People who lack adaptability are ruled by fear, anxiety and a deep personal discomfort to change.
Adaptability is your ability to adjust to changes in your environment.
Schwinn bicycle company, a family-owned company was America’s number one manufacturer of bicycles from the mid-1950s through to the 1970s. By the late 1970s, a new bicycle sport begun by enthusiasts in Northern California had popularized a new type of all-terrain bicycle, the mountain bike.
Schwinn failed to spot this mountain-biking trend and was slow to match competition from abroad for the booming market in upscale bikes for adults. Senior management, oblivious to the changing tides of bikers’ tastes, was far too slow in rethinking their marketing strategy. One sales manager even dismissed the new, lightweight bikes with the dismissive comment, “Are you gonna ride it or carry it?”.
It’s overseas suppliers including Giant Bicycles of Taiwan, which Schwinn had inadvertently helped build into a bicycle manufacturing titan, were among the creditors that eventually forced Schwinn into bankruptcy. The managers at Schwinn believed for some reason that they were exempt from the change in consumer behaviour, this attitude came at a huge cost.
The ability to be flexible, to take in new, and even painful information, without tuning out in self-protection, and responding nimbly is essential for survival.
Adaptability is a competitive advantage. The ability to be flexible, to take in new, and even painful information, without tuning out in self-protection, and responding nimbly is essential for survival. Adaptability is your ability to adjust to changes in your environment. Being adaptable means that you can respond quickly to changing ideas, responsibilities, expectations, trends, strategies and processes that are needed for success.
Individuals who demonstrate competency in adaptability relish change and find excitement in innovation. They also show openness to new information, letting go of old assumptions and adapting their styles of operation to match new situations. They are comfortable with the anxiety that the new or unknown brings and are willing to take a gamble on new ways of doing things.
Adaptability requires the flexibility to take into account multiple perspectives on a given situation. This flexibility depends, in turn on an emotional strength: the ability to stay comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty while remaining calm in the face of the unexpected. Self-confidence is key in building this type of flexibility, it provides the sureness that allows you to quickly adjust your responses and drop everything without reservation as realities shift.
Those who are open to new ideas frequently say yes to new ideas, suggestions, tasks or assignments.
Individuals who are willing to change, or shake up conventional ways of doing things will remain relevant because they are comfortable with experimenting. Without limitations on your thinking and actions, challenges become something not to dread, but to seize and enjoy working through.
How can you begin?
- Be aware of changes in your environment: Staying aware of what is changing around you is key to adaptability. After all, if you are oblivious then there is nothing to adapt to. When you have your antennas tuned to signals from your external environment you are then able to spot patterns, notice changes and prepare accordingly. Being aware begins from intentionally observing things around you by searching out information and asking good questions to make sure you are aware of what is going on.
- Be Open to new ideas: Being open to new ideas means that you are willing to learn and try new ways of doing things. Developing this mindset can positively influence your ability to take on new challenges. Your willingness and motivation to keep improving will demonstrate your commitment to growth. Those who are open to new ideas frequently say yes to new ideas, suggestions, tasks or assignments.
- Ask for feedback: Asking for feedback can provide extremely valuable insight for your personal and professional growth. Feedback helps you to know your weaknesses, identify your strengths and also acknowledge your limits. Knowing and acting on feedback will help you to be better by making meaningful changes where it matters most.
- Be willing to make mistakes: Taking initiative and being open to new ways of doing things doesn’t mean that you will get it right every time. No one is perfect, and making mistakes is very human and something that will happen a lot. While making an error can be frustrating or even humiliating, it is how you manage the aftermath that counts. If you learn from your mistakes, share newfound knowledge and test alternative solutions, then chances are these mistakes will form some of the most important lessons you will learn.
In conclusion, adaptability is both a skill and mindset. Adaptability improves your chances of succeeding and helps you to stay afloat when adversities of life try to sink you.