The Adaptability Paradox

The Well Worn Path

Recently in the “Strategic Thinking for Leaders” Class I teach, I talked with students about how difficult it can be to change when we have been successfully doing something the same way for a long time.

The well worn path that we have followed for years is easy to follow. We know the rules, the processes, the tools, the pitfalls and all other aspects of that path.

Our comfort with that path makes it harder for us to see that even though the ‘way we have always done things’ has led us to success in the past, it may not in the future.

The Adaptability Paradox

Sometimes the familiarity of the well worn path makes it harder for us to see what’s changing around us. And even if we do see changes, we have to choose to adapt to them. One element that makes it difficult for us to easily embrace change is the time involved in learning new ways of doing things.

Learning Through Change

Adapting to change and learning new ways of doing our work makes our jobs easier – but only after an adjustment period. The paradox is this – When I adapt to change, it will be MORE DIFFICULT short term and also EASIER long term.  

More Difficult Initially, we must accept that it will be more difficult as we learn new tools, skills and approaches.

Easier Long-term, our productivity will increase and it will be easier for us to get work done. When we learn through the changes, our lives and work become EASIER because we are approaching them in new successful ways – with new thinking, new tools, new information and new skills.

Warning Signs

Here are some of the warning signs that our skills are becoming outdated:

  • People are routinely using terminology we don’t know
  • It is becoming more difficult to get things done the way we’ve always done them
  • People are not seeking out our input the way they used to
  • Coworkers are adapting to new approaches and are more productive than we are
  • There are new studies, books and articles being mentioned that we haven’t read
  • There is free technology for improving efficiency  in our line of business that we aren’t using
  • We feel out of the loop somehow but can’t quite figure out why

If we miss the signs of change (or if we see the signs but do not adapt), our skills become outdated fast – just as fast as the speed of change.

When a change in the world, our world, becomes a change we’ve ignored, then by doing nothing, we are actively choosing the more difficult path in the long run.

Questions for Reflection:

1. In what areas have I been missing the warning signs that my skills are becoming outdated?

2. How will I choose the easier path in the future by learning through these areas now?

3. How much easier and more productive could my work be after I make these changes?

Related Resources:

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For more, see new book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
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© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

About Linda Fisher Thornton
Linda Fisher Thornton is Founder and CEO of Leading in Context, and author of the award-winning book 7 Lenses. She teaches as Adjunct Assoc. Prof. for University of Richmond SPCS. She is leading a movement to help leaders and organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership.

5 Responses to The Adaptability Paradox

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  2. Pingback: The CHANGE…. as can be seen…..@April,2012 edition of Leadesrship Develpoment Carnival, hosted by Shri Tanmya Vora2012, « The world is too small? or Is it?

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