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The Adaptability Quotient

Today’s day and age offers the greatest level of competition and uncertainty ever experienced. All of the unknowns the future brings can be summed up as a VUCA environment, with VUCA standing for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. These are factors that the average organizational employee will continually deal with in their jobs. As technology and processes continue to evolve, this VUCA environment will only be exacerbated and continue to grow. Within this framework, businesses need to be able to find employees who can not only function in this environment, but truly thrive in these unpredictable conditions.

We know EQ and IQ as two key measures that have been used to predict or analyze employee success in the workplace. While IQ relates to the level of cognitive intelligence of a person, their EQ signifies their emotional intelligence. While IQ was the predominant determiner of employee capability, EQ has become increasingly noted in recent years for its need in the workplace. Along these lines, the adaptability quotient or AQ has been created to address the upcoming needs of businesses as they consider who to hire to build their company in the future.

The adaptability quotient can be defined as an employee’s ability to deliver results in the face of uncertainty. A study cited in the UK had 91% of hiring managers acknowledging that employees of the future will “be recruited largely for their ability to cope with change and uncertainty” (Right Management, 2014). The adaptability quotient is a key consideration because the advancement of technologies that change how businesses operate occur at breathtaking speeds. For employees, this means that skills they have learned may not be applicable if superior technologies disrupt the various tools those employees have been previously trained to use. In this regard, adaptability is a core skill that is applicable to all situations because at its core, adaptability is about managing and responding to change.

Adaptability arguably also assists in the learning of new skills. As challenges plague the organization, adaptable employees will be able to rise to those challenges and acquire the necessary capabilities to overcome those potential issues. Adaptability is about continuous learning, specifically learning in ways that will benefit and improve the organization. If you have an employee who is set in their ways and unable to change to meet VUCA environment demands, this can negatively impact your business. Conversely, having an employee who is skilled but also adaptable allows them to be utilized in a variety of circumstances and contexts.

By recruiting and training employees who utilize adaptability in their daily work, you reinforce that the organization or business is adaptable. In this way, as new challenges and problems present themselves, the organization has already created a culture of adaptability. This culture can be a competitive edge because this enables the business or organization to be successful in any situation despite the amount of change or uncertainty involved. Adaptability from this perspective can be both an individual skill any employee brings to the table or can be an operating mindset and driver for the company.

Organizations and businesses that are able to find adaptable people to fill their ranks will be increasingly successful as the future continues to bring with it volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and uncertainty. Employees that focus on developing their abilities to manage change and uncertainty and deliver quality business results in tumultuous environments will become critical drivers of the business organizations into the future.

Reference Articles
Powell, C. 2019.
Right Management. 2014.

*Leadership Lesson*  

In this quick TEDTalk, a venture investor Natalie Fratto shares how she uses AQ to determine which start-up founders she believe will be successful in our current and ever-changing business landscape. She shares the three ways she believes we can measure and, most importantly, improve our AQ:

  1. Ask “What if?” questions – These kinds of questions ask us to simulate possible scenarios and think critically to come up with solutions. Instead of testing how we retain information, it is testing how we will actually utilize information.
  2. Actively Unlearn – When we unlearn, we are taking what we already know and challenging it with new information. We can’t just set out to acquire more knowledge, we need to know when to replace insufficient or erroneous information when needed. This is really adopting a philosophy of lifelong learning.
  3. Prioritizing Exploration vs Exploitation – Be willing to explore new opportunities instead of simply exploiting previous knowledge or success. An exploitation mindset limits our ability to continue seeking improvements or prepare for change. An exploration mindset instead leaves no door unopened.

AQ can be learned, but like any skill it takes practice. This week, adopt one of these mindsets and see what ideas it may spark in either your personal or professional life!

*Meet the Author*

JoePazmanyJoe Pazmany works with Leadership Inspirations developing training methods and experiential content. Joe has recently completed his Doctorate (Ed.D.) in Organizational Leadership with his dissertation focusing on how uncertainty impacts merger and acquisition integrations.