The increasing importance of AQ as a growth driver. What’s your ability to ADAPT?

The late great Stephen Hawking defined intelligence as ‘the ability to adapt to change’ and change dominates all of our landscapes.  In the single second it took to read that sentence, Visa processed over 3 million transactions and right now 56,000 Google searches have returned tens of billions of results links.

For all commercial functions it’s constant.  Brands are redefining their roles in society, seeking to be more purpose-led.  Media and comms channels are changing at the speed that technology dictates.  There’s been a paradigm shift driven by the Laws of Growth igniting changes in strategy to drive penetration.  Go to market channels are shifting into a new era of uncertainty as Amazon increases its reach and range, start-ups like Dollar Shave Club use direct to consumer and who knows where blockchain will take us.

There’s nothing linear about this change, it’s exponential and a growth imperative.  It’s happening faster now we’re living and working longer.  In this new context, we all need to develop and grow our ‘Adaptability Quotient’ (AQ).  The ability to quickly and effectively adapt to uncertainty and change.

It requires an acknowledgement and acceptance of new facts and then being able to respond rapidly and positively to the challenges or opportunities presented.

Developing AQ applies to individuals, functions and total businesses.  Change in businesses can create immense uncertainty for individuals as they anticipate the impact on them and their roles.  We’ve all been there and I’ve seen a number of client contacts going through this in recent weeks.  Change has a habit of growing arms and legs causing disruption and negative energy unless people have dialled up their AQ and it’s communicated effectively.

Functions and businesses have the dangerous habit of seeing changes coming but ignoring them or underestimating their impact.  Inertia has been the downfall of once famous brands like Kodak and Nokia.  On the other hand, there are businesses who scan for change and do something smart in response, whether it be Unilever’s global embrace of a sustainability agenda, which is baked into their DNA or, old brands like Mini who’ve very successfully adapted and now contribute 20% of BMW’s sales.

So what and how do you boost your AQ?

Well you could do a lot worse than watching Shrek – at first the ogre challenged the change threatening his world when his precious solitude was suddenly shattered by an invasion of annoying fairy tale characters.  There were blind mice in his food, a big, bad wolf in his bed, three little homeless pigs and more, all banished from their kingdom by the evil Lord Farquaad.  It was a no hope situation.

Reluctantly Shrek embraces the change.  Determined to save their home Shrek cuts a deal with Farquaad and sets out to rescue the beautiful Princess Fiona to be Farquaad’s bride.  His AQ development starts when he leaves his Known World for the Unknown World.

To help him further develop his AQ he enlists the help of wisecracking Donkey, a mentor who enrols the help of allies through the change process.  With the help of his friends and developing his AQ, the story ends happily.

In summary:

  • Proactively keep your eyes open for triggers of change and be open to them.
  • Move from ‘command and control’ to ‘enable and collaborative’ leadership.
  • Learn to say ‘I don’t know’, ask for help and harness the power of those who can, particularly Millennials.
  • Quickly recognise and learn from mistakes as stimulus to move forward.
  • Test, learn, scale or kill – at speed.

… release your inner Shrek to develop your AQ.


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