Adaptable? Of course I am …

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Most people I know consider themselves ‘adaptable’ – able and willing to adapt to changing conditions, new challenges etc. fast. Yet I know very few who really are. What’s the problem?

You probably know exactly what I’m talking about. We lie to ourselves and choose to believe it. Funny and scary at the same time. And it’s not limited to adaptability. Curiosity is another trait that everyone thinks is important – and insist to possess. Fair enough, most of us were born curious. That’s how we learn to talk, to walk, to become part of a family, then a group, then society in general. Yet as we grow, curiosity often fades. It doesn’t disappear but it gets overshadowed by other ‘priorities’, including laziness, although we rarely call it that.

There are many such examples, and these two – curiosity and adaptability – touch most of us, professionally and otherwise: Curiosity is driving all progress. Eagerness to understand, improve, create, whether we’re talking about life in general or some specific discipline – like my own home ground, technology. 

Curiosity means acquiring new knowledge, and again – most people I know would easily claim that that’s their state of mind – always. Still, these same people, most of them, have a hard time showing it. Case in point, they would never answer ‘I don’t know’ in a professional setting, pretending to know instead. This is the opposite of curiosity. It’s almost like not knowing something is a defeat.

Thus my strongest urging: Let’s embrace ‘I don’t know’. Not using this tool means learning less and slower. We can’t have that, right? Actually, ‘I don’t know, do you?’ is the perfect tool even if you do know, for obvious reasons.

The same reasoning can be used for adaptability, and the situation is even worse. We may think we’re adaptable, but we’re not. In many situations, in particular professionally, most of us meet change with scepticism. Almost like an instinctive reflex we pull up the guard to protect the existing. What happened to adaptability? At what point did we forget that survival requires adaptability – according to both Charles Darwin and common sense?

The ability to adapt fast to change has never been more important – for businesses and individuals, as discussed in Invisible Disruptions are Changing your Life and Goodbye IT, go Data a few weeks ago. 

It’s really a matter of survival, and here’s an important component from my own personal survival kit: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. Marshall Goldsmith’s famous book is 15 years old and still on my desk. Not because it’s such a great read (it’s OK), but because the title is such great reminder. Don’t let history block your progress. And don’t pretend to know everything.

Curiosity is fun. Adaptability is survival. Together they’re progress.

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