No matter how structured or planned something is, no matter how organized it is, no matter how carefully thought through, the future will always be different from what we imagine. And that’s great!
Humans are adaptable creatures. We can learn from experience and change our behavior, which has been essential to our survival.
But what makes us humans such excellent adapters also makes us reluctant to change. Our brains are hardwired to resist change in favor of proven methods that have worked for us in the past, meaning if something works for us, we’ll stick with it. But that doesn’t always work for us, especially in a constantly evolving world where we have to adapt to meet new challenges quickly.
The same goes for organizations. As a company grows and changes, it must be flexible enough to adapt and let value dictate it, even losing structure. But companies tend to be rigid and slow to embrace change, often because they are made up of leaders who are not flexible and adaptable.
The key is learning to adapt better. For individuals, this means developing the ability and willingness to learn new things and to let go of old approaches when necessary. For organizations, it means fostering a culture that encourages employees to embrace change and gives them the tools they need to harness change to innovate or improve everything.
What was once considered “cutting edge” technology, such as social media, is now standard. What was once regarded as weird and wacky, like when I opened my first blockchain wallet in 2011, is now commonplace. The same goes for business practices: what was once considered outrageous or unacceptable behavior (for example, making your company’s earnings public) is now a transparent practice.
Organizations have long suffered the ravages of lack of adaptability, suffocating bureaucracy, and resistance to change. But in recent years, we have seen a trend towards more flexible and adaptable companies. This is due, in part, to the fact that nowadays, everything moves quickly. You have to be able to proceed with it and, in addition, to the hyper massification of agile terms, practices, and frameworks.
My grandfather used to say something to me when I was a child; for example, he used to say it to me when I was learning to ride a bicycle: “Just when you think you control something, everything changes.”
You have probably heard this in many different contexts. My father used to say something similar about business. And it turns out that he was right: when you think you have identified the market, the market changes, and you have to propose a new product or service.
That same concept applies to leadership as well. Just when you think you know exactly how to lead a team, some new factor changes the game entirely and leaves you wondering how the hell to proceed.
It’s hard to imagine when this term wasn’t as familiar to us as it is now. Still, words like ‘adapt,’ ‘flexibility,’ or ‘pivot’ hadn’t entered our vocabulary until about five years ago. Now, suppose you’re in the business world. In that case, it’s virtually impossible not to be familiar with the concept of pivoting, but what most leaders don’t realize is that this ability to change and adapt is more than a strategy: It’s a leadership style and a reason for organizational survival.
Some leaders are rigid; they know exactly what they want their company to look like and how it should get there, and anything that doesn’t fit into that vision gets cut. Other leaders are more flexible: They know what kind of product they want to create and what their end goal is, but they are open to change along the way, always asking how the journey can improve rather than making assumptions about what it should be.
To stay afloat as a leader in an environment like this, you will have to develop some special skills such as constant love and respect for what we have talked about throughout this post: flexibility and adaptability.
And the next time, you’re asked: What makes some organizations thrive in this ever-changing environment while others fall apart?
You already know the answer. It is the title of this post.