By: Tammy Godby, Global Manager, Organizational Development | 10/05/2021 |

Oh my, oh my…do I have a lot to say/share about adaptability.  In an ever-changing world, we all find ourselves adapting on a daily basis, but there are some misconceptions about what adaptability is.

I am a fan of starting with defining our topic.  What it is, and what it isn’t.

Adaptability is: Constantly adjusting, modifying, changing to fit a new situation.

Adaptability is not: Just saying yes or being flexible without sharing opinions and ideas.

Quick note:  This is not where we place judgment on whether a changing situation is good or bad.  Adaptability is finding the best way forward…at this present time…armed with the knowledge we currently possess.

Here’s my visual.

You’ve been paddling your canoe on your river for a while.

(The river can be life, work, family, a combination of everything, whatever.  It’s your river, you choose.)

The river turns into rapids.

You pull to the shore and realize something must change – you must ADAPT.

(Now here’s the catch most people miss with adaptability.)

You have choices with adaptability.  You know you must continue.  Not getting back in the river is not an option.  But the HOW is totally up to you and how you use your adaptability skills.

Do you want to continue using your canoe and navigate new rough waters?  Do you want to invest in a new boat that is better designed to handle the new river? Do you want to hire a guide that has experience in navigating this new and potentially dangerous part of the route? Do you throw all caution to the wind, put on a life vest and a helmet and dive in?  Maybe, you decide that you need to carry your canoe to a new spot and get back in the river at a different location.

Adapting is making adjustments that keep you moving forward and being productive. You might choose option 1, only to find that that decision is short-term, and you need to modify the plan again.  That’s OK! That’s changing to fit a new situation. Our river is going to keep changing, bending, moving.  What choices, skills, plans do you need to navigate all the twists and turns?  Say it with me – ADAPTABILITY.

How do you gain this skill?  Practice… Practice… Practice.  Change can be very difficult.  It can cause a lot of stress and heightened emotions that suppress our reasoning.  Listen and be open to new ideas…Even the ones that scare you.  We all work with some pretty fantastic people.  The world was built on trial and error, don’t be afraid to ask the question, try new things, learn from others. Just because an idea hasn’t been done before, doesn’t mean it’s not worth looking in to.  Maybe you upset the applecart, maybe you try something that didn’t work 5 years ago, because our river is different now and worth another attempt.  Don’t be afraid to say – well that didn’t work as we hoped, let’s try something else.

We must be careful though that we do not allow the action bias to have too much leverage in our decision-making.  The action bias pushes us to “just do something quickly” and doesn’t always consider that sometimes the better option is taking a moment to research, look fully into other options, or pause.  The action bias pushes us to do something, anything so we “feel” like we’re making progress.  This can be deceiving. Be mindful of this pitfall.  If time is needed to ensure all options are considered thoughtfully, take the time.

I’m very fortunate at Percepta we practice adaptability.  We are growing and learning, finding new ways to improve…but not without errors or setbacks.  Again…that’s OK!   The real gem about working at Percepta is that we encourage curious questions, trying new things, learning from mistakes, owning our imperfectness as humans while always striving to do better.

Adaptability is a skill that will serve you well in all areas of life.  I challenge you to practice walking outside your comfort zone on a regular basis.  Start small and work your way up to bigger risks.  Ask to help on a project that you want to learn more about – just for the learning experience.  Wake up every day wondering what new things you will learn from the people around you.

It just takes practice.  #Adaptability