Why Resilience is not the Way Forward and Adaptability Is

Definitely 2020 has been the year of resilience. I’ve seen the term used in so many new contexts and very much present in the public sphere, especially in the second part of the year. But what is resilience? The original meaning of the word refers to the ability of a substance, object or material to spring back into shape, elasticity. The use of resilience has later been extended to cover the capacity of people and organizational structures to recover quickly from difficulties, toughness. During 2020 I have heard resilience referred to many times as the ability of people and organizations (at all levels and of all types) to bounce back and recover quickly after the impact of the pandemic. I have looked into the resilience of CSOs quite significantly during 2020 and have had several conversations and training sessions on the topic. Indeed, resilience seemed to be the way to go for anyone who aimed to survive the pandemic and remain in business, no matter what kind of business one was looking to stay in.

As the time passed and the world is looking hopeful towards the fading of the pandemic due to mass vaccination (still a while to go until there, but there’s a start), I found myself thinking a lot about resilience and about what’s next. Let’s assume your organization manages to be resilient throughout 2020 and even 2021. Then what? What comes after resilience? Where does resilience take us on the long term?

Judging by the meaning assigned to it, resilience will take us back to where we were and to how we were. Bouncing back is looking backwards and will definitely not take the organization into the future. But bouncing forward might. While I definitely agree that resilience has been crucial to take us through 2020, I strongly believe embracing resilience in the long run is not the winning bid. Think a little bit about, let’s say, March 2022. Will a resilient structure, that managed to successfully bounce back, be able to perform in the March 2022 reality after resiliently bouncing back to where and how it was in March 2019? I hope you are at peace with the thought that business as usual is gone for good. We are looking at a completely new reality of the work space and patterns, of the human interaction and service definition, of the education paradigm and governance practices at all levels. The world will not bounce back after the pandemic. There will be a new world. And this requires an adapted organization. Focusing on being resilient for too long or being too resilient is not the way to go if you are looking to navigate the post-pandemic reality and thrive.

Let’s think a bit about the evolutionism. The theory postulates the survival of the fittest. Not the strongest. Not the one that springs back into shape. The fittest is the one that fits best any kind of new reality that, for whatever reason, characterizes the world at a particular point in time. Any organizational ecosystem, public, business or nonprofit, works in similar ways. On the long term, the ecosystem will be dominated by the fittest structures, the ones that have been resilient during the peak of the crisis and have adapted to the aftermath conditions. Resilience is the short-term winning strategy, while adaptability takes you far on the long term.

So, what is adaptability and why does it matter? Adaptability is a feature enabling people and organizations to adopt successful behaviors to effectively respond to uncertainty and change. There is tremendous change going on in the world. Almost 40% of the jobs we know today will cease to exist in the next 10 years, according to the World Economic Forum, while an estimate 375 million people need to switch occupation and learn new skills, according to a study by McKinsey. Every industry is being disrupted across the world right now and the levels of displacement caused by the pandemic is unprecedented. The need for people to upskill and reskill is actually a huge opportunity if approached as such. Adaptability is rapidly becoming the most important competitive advantage of the post-pandemic world. Adapt or die will soon be a reality.

But who adapts and why? How and to what degree does someone adapt? When does someone adapt and how quickly? What are the conditions that enable or hinder one’s adaptability? Do teams and organizational structures adapt differently than individuals? As you prepare for the post-pandemic world, would it be helpful to have answers to these questions?

The good news is that now you can, because of AQ: the Adaptability Quotient, a measure of how people effectively respond to uncertainty and change. AQ is an evidence-backed measurement, thoroughly grounded in psychology (specifically trait activation theory and a contingent behavior model) and recognizes that adaptability is the complex interplay between a person’s ability (the individual adaptability skills), character (how one approaches change), and environment (is the current environment set up to help individuals adapt?). We help organizations and teams to navigate and thrive through change.  AQai provides personalized individual & team profile feeding customized training & coaching programs that enable successful transformation for increased team performance, helping people and organizations deal with increasing uncertainty by adapting to change and cutting the learning curve so they have the skills and confidence for the future.

AQai provides you with: adaptability assessments (custom individual report with actionable insights on how to strengthen your ability to successfully navigate change), tailored coaching resources provided by our conversational chatbot powered by AI, and tailored team training & coaching based on the team report and provided by our certified practitioners who are ready to guide your team’s transformation to navigate and thrive in change.

We are focused on humans first, because we believe no human should be left behind in the rapid and inevitable changes ahead that will require significant upgrade, upskill and reskill.

Change is coming and we’re here to help. 

I am Cristina Rigman, the first AQai certified practitioner in Romania. Do you want to talk about your adaptability challenges? Get in touch!