“All failure is failure to adapt; all success is successful adaptation.” – Max McKeown
Look up “adaptability” in the dictionary and the definition you see is “the ability to change (or be changed) to fit changed circumstances.” That’s a pretty good definition, but I can add another: “Something a leader better be good at if they want to succeed.”
Talking about the relevance of adaptability for leaders isn’t an original idea. I can find plenty of articles on-line talking about the importance of leaders being able to adapt to changing conditions. It’s not that hard to understand either. Our world changes fast, faster now than ever before. Market conditions seem to change every day. There are new opportunities – new people, new products, new markets – that require your attention. There are also new challenges – people, competition, limited resources, new technologies – that keep popping up. Being adaptable so you can meet changing circumstances is mandatory. The old military adage, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy,” is true; no matter how much planning you do you’re going to have to be ready to change.
I would suggest that there’s one more reason you need to be adaptable, and it ties to one of the most important things in business today: innovation. The best innovation doesn’t happen when you’ve planned for it, although that doesn’t keep people from trying. Companies spend immeasurable amounts of time and money trying to be innovative. But rarely do the best innovations come from places with lots of time and money. The best innovations come from people and businesses that had to adapt to their circumstances and limitations and truly reimagine how something might work. If you’re not adaptable, true innovation will be hard for you to find.
And we all know the importance of innovation today. You could make a pretty good argument that the only potentially lasting sustainable competitive advantage is the ability to be innovative. The ability to adapt and change is going to be one of the key deciders of who succeeds and who doesn’t over the coming years. Remember, “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less” (Gen. Eric Shinseki, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army).
Are you adaptable? Are you willing to change? Are you willing to step outside your comfort zone and stop doing things just because you’ve always done them? Make your change today!