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  • Writer's pictureTarun Kumar

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

store?” or

“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.

Sounds interesting?

To be continued........

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