Adaptability: Most Sought After 21st Century Skill - Part 1
How do you deal with immense change?
Be honest with yourself: Are you someone who embraces it and evolves
with it? Or, do you love maintaining the status quo sticking with the old
In these disruptive times, adaptability is the flavor of the season and is
defined as “how well a person responds to the inevitability of
change,”. According to the new found survey it is a must-have trait post
pandemic. Organizations want team members who can shoulder additional
responsibilities and acquire new skills as needed in an uncertain world. Not
only is it a quality that you should learn to spot, so you can hire and retain
the right people, but it’s also one that you should build in order to remain
indispensable and employable.
Whenever I think about adaptability, I’m reminded of the evolution story. I
think that’s the best adaptability story ever. Evolution depicts how the
human race has adapted and is continuously adapting to various changes
that happened over the course of time. Early humans needed to cope with
the changing landscapes and the climatic changes that came with it. The
development of the human brain was the adaptive response to these
changes. That’s just one example of how crucial adaptability is to survival.
Change is the only constant and it’s one of the few things that life promises
right from conception. Adjusting to cope with a change is what adaptability
is and how fast we accept the change and adapt has an effect on our
growth and survival in the long run.
I spend time with start-ups and during my interactions with founders what
I’ve realized in the course of a brief conversation is – “whether a
prospective investor would be willing to invest in them and their company or
not?”. How do I do that is by assessing their ability to adapt to the
non-conforming business scenarios. Adaptability is a characteristic that
distinguishes many of those who go on to succeed, turning out to be the
unicorn in the coming years and be the corporates and organizations of the
Adaptability is not just useful in the VUCA world, but for everyone who
believes in the survival of the fittest. Each of us, as individuals, groups,
corporations and even governments are being forced to grapple with more
change than ever before in human history, and there’s good news ahead:
“Adaptability is not fixed,” meaning that everyone has the capacity to
measure, test, and improve their ability to adapt to new circumstances.
If you want to assess adaptability in others and how you can boost it in
yourself then I recommend you must get acquainted with some mentor or
coach who preferably is from the Armed Forces background as they
encounter changing situations on the go. The critical mission survivability
skills coupled with ability to think on two feet with belief in yourself & your
Team can do wonders. Agree?
That’s where experienced soldiers can help with change due to their
constant tinkering with the possibility of what if something didn’t go as
So when interacting with organizations or startups on multitude of
facets which are crippling the growth, try asking the “what if”
What I’ve seen is that these questions force a person to picture multiple
possible versions of the future and make their decisions accordingly. Some
examples of these questions are –
“What if your main revenue stream were to dry up overnight?” or
“What if extreme weather conditions prevented customers from visiting your
“What if the statutory compliances affected your bottom line?” or
“What if your app is unable to perform due to a technical glitch?”.
Answers from the founders help me get a sense of their adaptability based
on how many scenarios they’ve catered for, how strong their vision is and
what all contingencies they have considered in case of disruption.
Investors often ask too many questions in an investment pitch, but it’s
better to ask a couple of questions and then go deeper with follow-up
questions. One example of a question could be - “Describe a difficult
change that you’ve recently undergone at work” and a natural follow-up
might be: “What would have happened if [different change X] had
occurred instead?” This forces the founder to consider an alternative past
and a future which makes it interesting.
“Tell me about a time when you were wrong” is another poser that can
yield wonderful insights. You can follow it up with “What is the most
compelling argument of those who disagreed with you?” By asking
these questions you can often tell if people are willing to change their
minds and therefore are more adaptable. By asking them to honestly share
a time when they believed they were wrong, not when others perceived
they were wrong which in turn speaks volume of their passion & integrity.
To be continued........