Adapt to Change by Learning

NewsOctober 7, 2020

I’ve been puzzled by a few things that happened during Covid-19 … like companies that were painfully slow in adapting to the pandemic world or the Change Management Speaker who said, “Sorry, I don’t do virtual events.”  

One of the keys of managing change effectively is learning how to adapt to change. Most people would acknowledge that adapting is vital in this process. But what does it really mean to adapt? At its basic level, adapting is really about learning. When we adapt we try something we’ve never done before. In 2020 each one of us had many opportunities to adapt, such as working from home and learning to navigate the virtual world. As a speaker, I learned how to juggle many new balls; keeping people engaged during a virtual presentation plus a myriad of technical skills involved in running a zoom meeting, switching and sharing screens, cameras, microphones, lighting and green screens. Don’t get me started. Those of us who were successful at adapting to change learned new skills. Let me state it again. Adapting is Learning. 

Even though adapting and learning can be difficult and challenging, there is a carrot of motivation in this; People are motivated to grow. In fact, research shows that one of the top drivers of employee engagement is the desire for personal development. Intrinsically, we are motivated to improve, to become better and to grow. This process involves adapting and learning. 

In the world of work, sometimes an individual’s personal development goals can be at cross purposes with an organization’s corporate goals. In fact, many organizations view employee development and business growth as opposing forces. But not Harvard Professor Lisa Laskow Lahey. Dr. Lahey contends that both are good for business and at the same time also great for employees. Her research supports the radical conviction that “organizations will best prosper when they are more deeply aligned with people’s strongest motive, which is to grow.”

Lahey describes a new breed of company. She calls them Deliberately Development Organizations, or DDO for short. As the name implies, development is intentional, and also defines the company’s culture. At a DDO everyone has an opportunity to grow every day, and that literally means every employee. This concept goes further than merely giving people an opportunity. Everyone is expected to grow at Deliberately Developmental Organizations. Employees that do not want to be deliberately developing every day don’t stay with this kind of organization.

In today’s business world, the best companies and the best leaders know how to adapt. They adapt by learning. This concept of adaptive learning is embodied in the mindset that Dweck calls the growth mindset. To improve your ability to adapt, focus on three game- changing behaviors practiced by the most successful people:

  • Set an audacious goal. The goal should not be impossible, but bold and daring. In addition, the goal must be clearly and succinctly stated.
  • Focus on improving. Your aim should be to get better. Celebrate small steps of improvement that take you closer to your goal.  If you make a mistake, evaluate what went wrong and try again. 
  • Enjoy the challenge. Yes, it’s difficult and there will be obstacles, but you have a goal that keeps you focused, you’re improving and you learning to persevere. 

The key to managing change effectively is the ability to adapt. We are able to adapt best when we tap into our nature desire to develop, grow and learn. We learn best when our growth mindset focuses on our goal, improvement and perseverance. 

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