With the world progressing at such a rapid pace, there is great focus on what skills are needed for the future. While articles and experts focus largely on technology-based skills, there is a non-technological skill that always finds its way on the list – skill of adaptability.
The Oxford Learners Dictionary defines ‘adaptable’ as being ‘able to change or be changed in order to deal successfully with new situations.’ Essentially, being adaptable in most situations boils down to one’s ability to observe how things are changing and subsequently adjusting his/her focus, practices, skills and mindset to maximize results in that situation.
WHAT DOES ADAPTABILITY LOOK LIKE IN BUSINESS?
In business, adaptability often requires a company to understand the changing trends in its field and observe how the customers taste and preferences are changing. A well-known example of the failure to adapt is Kodak, the one-time photography giant. Kodak, who actually invented the digital camera in 1975, and was the market leader in digital camera sales early on, failed to fully adapt to the digital revolution and changing times. While the world was moving toward the use of digital cameras, Kodak continued its reliance on the sale of film, even as it was becoming obsolete. They filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and now exist in a totally different business space.
On the other hand, there are the obvious examples like Netflix and Amazon who understand, and in many ways, created the current desire for greater convenience and instant gratification. Netflix in particular started off as a DVD rental business, but envisioned a streaming service which ultimately succeeded as it adapted to the increasing desire for convenient consumption of movies at home and on the go. Now, services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu are the industry leaders, while companies like Blockbuster, who failed to adapt, are no more.
WHAT DOES ADAPTABILITY LOOK LIKE IN THE WORKPLACE?
In the workplace, the most obvious case study of adaptability is remote working during the current pandemic. Executives and employees alike all had to adjust to the new normal which for many was quite different from the brick-and-mortar model everybody knew. Being adaptable to this change meant that there were new issues to address. For example, managers certainly had to adjust the way they effectively monitored their staff while not being in the same location. For some, remote working required additional meetings and follow ups. Similiarly, staff who understood the greater need for trust and oversight, likely beat their superiors to the punch and provided consistent updates. In other instances, companies who understood that their staff who were parents also became teachers assisted these staff members by allowing flexibility with working hours.
In the examples above, adaptability was translated into real value. On this point, it is also important to understand that being adaptable requires the way(s) one provides value to change as circumstances change. For instance, while a company’s staff is small, it is important that most or all of the workers execute. As staff numbers increase, those with knowledge and skill who once executed must now provide value through effective leadership, oversight and training.
Further on the the point of adaptability in the workplace, there is an ongoing debate as to whether younger or older staff are more adaptable. While organizations generally hire younger persons on the belief (and experience) that they are generally more flexible and adaptive to sudden changes and shifts, there are some studies that suggest that adaptability in older persons may measure high or low based more so on the person and particular task at hand. As persons are living longer and retirement at 65 for some may prove disadvantageous, the ability of older persons to adapt and provide value should not be ignored.
WHAT DOES ADAPTABILITY LOOK LIKE IN ONE’S PERSONAL LIFE?
Even in one’s own personal life, adaptability is important. Consider being diagnosed with diabetes or hypertension. The failure to adapt to a new healthier lifestyle can prove fatal. Consider the loss of employment or the death of a primary breadwinner. Events like this would require adaptability in saving and spending habits. Consider the desire to build wealth. A person who is accustomed to being risk averse and focused only on the short- term would have to transform and adapt his/her mindset to fit his/her goals. In all areas, adaptability is vital.
HOW DOES ONE BECOME MORE ADAPTABLE?
There are many ways one can become more adaptable . Several ways are listed below:
Become more mindful
Be emotionally intelligent
Live in the present
Be aware of new trends
Continue to learn
Be a critical thinker
The above list is by no means exhaustive. What it means to be adaptable is often dictated by the situation itself. But for the future and beyond, and especially for the present, the skill anybody can develop and use to succeed, is the skill of adaptability.