As Darwin stated “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”. This ground breaking view of its time remains true today and is coming to the fore in our exponentially changing business world. It is predicted that AQ – your ability to adapt and change will be a lead predictor of success for business and as a leader.
As we enter a period with more change occurring now than during the entirety of our human existence, how will you as a business leader adapt and lead change? Surviving and thriving will depend on it.
What is your ability unlearn what you currently know and hold as true, and learn the new? For example, how hard did you find to change say from Microsoft to an IOS operating system, or learn a new software tool, then switch? Perhaps for some things it will be time throw the baby out with the bathwater – and adopt totally new ideas and concepts? Can you leave legacy thinking or systems behind? These are all questions we need to think about as we head into an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) business environment. A recent research study lead by Canterbury and Auckland Universities found that the most resilient businesses and organisations to not only endure but thrive in a world of uncertainty were those that demonstrated four key characteristics (out of an overall 13). These businesses not only survived, but thrived in the face of adversity and in challenging times.
1. Leadership. Strong leadership to provide good direction, management and decision making during times of crisis or challenge, as well as continuous evaluation of strategies and work programmes against business goals. Great leadership creates engaged people across the business.
2. Staff Engagement: The engagement and involvement of staff who understand the link between their own work, the organisation’s adaptability & resilience, and its long term success. Staff are empowered and use their skills to solve problems. Engaged staff give their residual effort to the business and go the extra mile.
3. Innovation and Creativity: Leadership also creates an environment where staff are encouraged and rewarded for using their knowledge and initiative in novel ways to solve new and existing problems, and for utilising innovative and creative approaches to developing solutions. What is your ability to adapt and change? How fast can you do this in relation to your competition? (see out manoeuvring your competition)
4. Effective Partnerships: Great leaders know when to collaborate and when to compete, and are adept at developing new and cementing lasting relationships. This requires an understanding of the relationships and resources the organisation might need to access from other businesses or organisations during a crisis, and planning and management to ensure this access.
While there are other supporting indicators, these combine to produce the foundation of a resilient and agile business. Agility is a strategic capability and part of your competitive advantage. The above characteristics are supported by two other important capabilities – the foresight and situation awareness to prevent potential crises emerging; and an ability to turn crises into a source of strategic opportunity. This is a leadership skill. Are you as a business leader looking forward and trying understand the future business environment? What could disrupt you? And therefore, how can you start to position yourself to adapt.
Leadership will make the difference – and that leadership starts with you.
Greg is a consultant at Advisory.Works