Adaptability: Key Mindset for the Age of Acceleration

A friend of mine here in Santa Barbara, California was just notified that his home-owners insurance will increase 500 percent. A neighbor just had his triple. Across the canyon, a homeowner received an estimate of $100,000 – for one year. What’s going on?

What these homeowners — and the insurance industry overall — are suddenly facing is a climate-induced disruption. Can the actuarial method — based on past weather events and their frequency —  be used to price future insurance, or will a new way need to be invented? And what’s happening with insurance is about to happen in other industries, other regions. It’s nothing less than a contagion of tipping points.

In virtually every realm, the forecast is one of increased uncertainty, volatility, and hyper-change. From the climate to energy to artificial intelligence to the workplace. From the geopolitical realm to supply chains to our national institutions and system of government.

Nothing works the way it used to; nothing can be taken for granted; events are challenging long-held assumptions, and business as usual is a thing of the past.

In this new era, we will all need to develop an Adaptability Mindset.

At the recent Pacific Coast Futures Retreat I asked the 50 leaders in attendance: how do you prepare for something that you’ve never done before, something that has you both nervous but also excited? How do you prepare for more change in the next decade than in the past 100 years?

Pondering such questions can clue you into the state of your Adaptability Mindset.

Your agility in changing with change while keeping your core values intact shows up in the choices that you make daily, both big and small. It’s the mental discipline to keep focused, to remain curious and creative even when we are running on empty, exasperated. It’s the reserve attitude that enables us to overcome obstacles and setbacks and disasters and take a balanced view.

Life over the next decade will be full of challenges — but also opportunities. Those who can keep their focus when faced with unexpected circumstances will be better equipped to find solutions and empower others. By embracing change rather than resisting it, adaptable individuals respond effectively to new challenges, learn from setbacks and use them as opportunities for growth.

Rapid Change Can Be A Springboard to Innovation

Adaptability is the gateway to innovation and creativity, to finding the new way. By being open to new ideas and perspectives, adaptable individuals and organizations can literally invent the future. They are not bound by traditional norms or rigid thinking patterns but rather embrace change as an opportunity to explore new possibilities. Those who can adapt quickly to changing market trends and consumer needs are more likely to thrive and succeed.

Adaptability is not to be confused with conformity. Just because “everyone else” is getting a tattoo or capitulating to an authoritarian impulse doesn’t mean you should. as well. Just because everyone around you is investing in subprime mortgages doesn’t mean your company should. Adaptability is not synonymous with thoughtless conformity to change, nor giving in to groupthink or going with the herd. Instead, it requires critical thinking, drinking from the wisdom and the lessons of history. It means sticking with core values that have served you well in the past, such as country before self, integrity even when it’s inconvenient, saying no when it violates your values. Adaptability, to paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, is keeping your head when all about you people are losing theirs.

The great botanist Charles Darwin was aware of the need for an adaptability mindset back in 1859. “It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives, nor the strongest that survives,” he observed. The species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”

What’s true for the species is true for us as individuals. We may be destined to live in a world of accelerating change and disruption. But the choices we make during this period will shape the future.

As the world continues to change at an unprecedented pace, the ability to adapt wisely becomes increasingly valuable. By cultivating an Adaptability Mindset, we can navigate change, learn from our experiences, and create a brighter future for ourselves and those to come.