Trends > Adaptability


At this moment in time, the transformation of our world appears to be speeding up. Everywhere we look, we are exposed to quickly evolving technology that can’t be ignored. Although it may seem daunting, the truth is that change is unavoidable and brings with it two options: succumb or succeed. In order for us to take advantage of such a new environment, it is essential that we obtain the necessary knowledge and figure out how to adjust accordingly – both in terms of learning new skills as well as adjusting to what comes with a rapidly-shifting world.

In a modern world where EQ and IQ are commonplace terms, AQ or Adaptability Quotient has started to gain attention in recent years. This concept underlines the importance of being able to adjust to today’s ever-changing business landscape. New skills are continually needed in the workplace and adaptability is essential for those who wish to stay ahead of the game.

What does it really mean when we talk about adaptability quotient? Basically, this term is used for someone’s capacity to adjust and do well in times of transformation. Generally speaking, all of us can cope with a certain degree of change; however, there comes a point when too much becomes too much. This differs from person to person, but once that limit is hit then stress becomes inevitable. Thankfully, adapting and increasing our personal limits doesn’t require any innate talent – it can be cultivated through practice.

It is essential that we comprehend the concept of adaptability to ensure our ability to adjust. There are numerous studies discussing the characteristics which make us capable of adapting, but Dr. Jennifer Jones may have identified the most important ones among them. According to her, there are four aspects critical for successful adaptation.

To begin, she talks about purpose. A story I’m sure many of you are familiar with will help to illustrate this concept. During a tour of the NASA space station in 1962, President Kennedy discovered a janitor busily cleaning the floors and paused to introduce himself. When asked what his role was within NASA, the janitor simply replied “I’m helping to put a man on the moon”. This serves as an example of true purpose – when we have a clear aim ahead of us, it can keep us motivated even through difficult times.

Inquisitiveness is another trait that she highlighted. Whenever I consider this concept, I think back to my oldest son before he became a teenager. At that time, he was always asking questions and eager to learn more about life. He wasn’t afraid to challenge ideas which didn’t make sense and sought to build an understanding of not just what our world looks like today, but also what it could be in future years. We all have within us a capacity for recognizing when something needs altering, posing queries and forecasting what may happen next – making us more prepared when tomorrow comes round.

Resilience is an essential trait that allows us to rebound from difficult situations. It is the capacity to recover quickly from setbacks, failures, or other obstacles in life. Becoming more resilient requires us to take our mistakes as learning opportunities and not be too critical of ourselves. By doing this we can develop better skills and techniques for tackling future challenges. Instead of ruminating on the past which cannot be changed, those who are most successful use their past experiences as a way of becoming stronger and more capable overall.

These first three characteristics have a positive correlation with adaptability and growing your AQ but the final characteristic which Jennifer Jones talks about has a negative correlation with adaptability, i.e. it will lessen your AQ. And that is threat. We all feel threatened by things around us A lot of this is driven by our past and our own experiences. For some of us, it may be hostile body language, the threat of looking stupid or someone having a different perspective to our own. The interesting thing is – the way in which the brain responds to these kinds of threats is no different to how it responds to us being followed by a stranger or confronted with someone threatening us with violence. To be highly adaptable we need to be aware of our threat response, what it looks like and what it feels like, how it is triggered and what the best way to manage it is.

And so to round it up with a formula – to be highly adaptable, we need to increase our purpose, inquisitiveness and resilience and reduce our threat response. These are not fixed; they are not genetic and can be learnt and developed over time.

Which then brings us to the process of learning. Have you ever wondered why we adults find it difficult to alter our behavior or thinking in a lasting manner? Well, let’s delve into the science of how our minds process this. Our brains are composed of approximately 100 billion neurons, and every time we learn something new – be it a word, information or an activity – these neurons modify their connections with other neurons. When we repeat an event such as riding a bike, a pathway is created. Initially this pathway is weak but as you carry on doing the same thing repeatedly, the connection becomes more solidified until your brain has learnt it well enough not to need your conscious control while executing it.

It is not always easy to make changes in our lives, especially when we are facing challenging times or we feel exhausted. Our brains have a tendency to take the path of least resistance and rely on the well-established pathways, thus forming habits that can be difficult to break. In order for us to replace old patterns with new ones, we must put forth considerable effort and stay concentrated for a long time.

The notion that transformation is possible, yet demanding, is supported by Nelson Mandela’s words: “ I never lose. I either win or I learn”. This quote inspires us all to keep our focus on learning and growing no matter what life throws at us. Ultimately, it is up to each one of us how far we want to go with this process as change requires continuous dedication and perseverance.

Penny Futter




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