What is an adaptability quotient (AQ) and how to improve your adaptability

Emerald Nwanne
June 3, 2021
6
Minutes

Your ability to adapt is critical to your future success, but how do you measure your business’s adaptability? Enter the Adaptability Quotient (AQ). What does it mean for your business? How can you improve your adaptability, and how can businesses promote adaptability in the workplace? 


Technology, culture, and the economy are evolving at a faster pace than ever before. Businesses and employees need to be able to implement new systems, processes, and ways of viewing the world quickly and effectively. The ability to adapt plays a critical role in the success of a business and whether or not it can navigate an unknown future.

What is an adaptability quotient (AQ)?

An Adaptability Quotient (AQ) measures someone's ability to adapt. It’s similar to IQ, which measures intelligence, or EQ, which measures emotional intelligence. All of these measurements are important in their own way, but AQ is fairly new to the scene.


A person’s ability to adapt might include how they handle change, learn from mistakes, overcome challenges, and adjust in real-time. It’s rolling with the punches and working with change instead of against it.


Adaptability has become a sought-after trait in employees, and more and more businesses and hiring managers are looking for candidates who demonstrate a high AQ.


Characteristics and skills of someone with a high AQ:

  • Problem solver

  • Curious

  • Creative

  • Innovative

  • Mindful

  • Life-long learner

  • Continuously improving

  • Willing to make mistakes

  • Unafraid of the unknown

  • Considers the future

  • Environmentally-conscious

Why should you care about adaptability?

You can't plan for the unknown directly, but you can prepare for it. Building the skills you need to adapt in the face of change and considering possible outcomes for the future will help you prepare for whatever comes your way.



Most businesses didn’t expect a pandemic to spread across the globe in 2020, and nearly as many were unprepared. It took quick decision making, diverse solutions, and unlearning for businesses to survive. Companies that previously didn’t think remote work was feasible quickly needed a new plan and a whole new outlook on what was possible or not.


Businesses that already actively prioritized problem solving, flexibility, innovation, and the adoption of new technology were the best prepared for a year of unprecedented change. 


We’re faced with change each and every day. Those who are able to adapt can better adjust to the future, however unknown it may be.


💡 Adaptability is a key trait in transformational leaders. Learn about the qualities of transformational leaders and how you can become one yourself in our Guide to Transformational Leadership.

Adaptability quotient benefits for organizations and employees

Adaptability benefits for businesses:

  • Change course as needed.

  • Leverage advancing technology.

  • Learn from failures.

  • Prepare for multiple possible outcomes.

  • Prioritize sustainable business practices.

  • Handle an unexpected crisis.

  • Survive an economic recession.

Adaptability benefits for individuals:

  • Solve problems effectively.

  • Accept and manage change.

  • Be flexible and accommodating of others.

  • Learn and adopt emerging technologies.

  • Stay relevant in your career as AI advances.

  • Transition job roles or careers with ease.

  • Maintain employment or change course in an economic recession.

How to improve your adaptability quotient 

Accept and embrace change

Change is going to occur whether you like it or not. You can’t prevent change, but you can learn how to accept and embrace it. 


Simple changes in the workplace, such as updates in technology or adjustments to management or staff, can send some people spiraling. You may fight against it and deny the change, or you may become increasingly disengaged because things aren’t how they used to be.


These phases are natural, but you must work your way through the change curve to a place of acceptance. Practice accepting change and look for the positives in your new situations. How can you turn an upcoming change into an opportunity? What can you learn from the change? What problems need to be solved in order to move forward with confidence?


💡 Learn more about Change Management


Question your assumptions

What was once true won't always be true. Everything in life is constantly changing, and just because you thought you knew the best way of doing something doesn’t mean it will continue to be the best way. New possibilities and evolving circumstances could mean a new solution is best. 


Adaptable people are always questioning their assumptions and ready to embrace a new solution at any given time. Continually ask questions and assess your processes. Is there a better way? What haven’t you considered before? Asking for constructive feedback from others can help you gather new insights into how you can improve.

Consider what the future might look like

Adaptable people understand change is inevitable. Accepting this allows you to freely consider what the future might bring. Practice thinking about the future and the many possibilities that could affect you or your business. 


For example, what does a future look like in which AI technology can complete your work? How do you fit into that future? What skills and abilities will be sought-after in the years to come, and how do you ensure you don’t fall behind? What does your role or industry look like in 5 years? 10 years? 30 years?


This doesn’t mean trying to predict the future or worrying about everything that could go wrong. It’s an exercise in visualizing possible outcomes to prepare yourself for the changes the future will undoubtedly bring. Plus, thinking about the future uses your imagination and improves your creativity.

How to improve adaptability in the workplace

Offer flexibility in the workplace

A rigid business is setting itself up for failure. What does not bend, breaks. Being flexible as an employer or manager will help you adapt in the face of crisis. Plus, it will allow your employees to work in the ways they work best, which improves engagement, motivation, and productivity.


Offer adjustable schedules, flexible hours, and work from home options. This is a huge asset to employees, but it will also benefit your business. The flexibility will help you face unexpected emergencies and keep your business running no matter the circumstances. 


If there’s a snowstorm, can your business continue running remotely? If an employee has a sick family member they need to stay at home with, are they able to work from home?


When you practice flexibility, you are better equipped to adapt when faced with an unexpected surprise or emergency.

Let people fail

Failure is never the goal, but it’s always an excellent learning opportunity. Take failure as a chance to learn, and allow your team the same freedom. Scolding or punishing someone if they make a mistake doesn’t stop future mistakes from happening; it just makes people afraid to be honest when something does go wrong. Fear of punishment will also prevent people from expressing new ideas.


Establish a work environment that embraces failure as a learning opportunity. You can’t spark creativity, adopt innovation, or try new ways of working without being open to the possibility of failure. It’s intimidating to anticipate mistakes, but you risk stagnation otherwise. Don’t let that next revolutionary idea slip away out of fear something could go wrong. 

Promote continuous feedback in the workplace

Without feedback, we don’t grow. But when feedback is sporadic and random, it often becomes something to be feared. Who hasn’t had a manager who only gave feedback when correcting us or addressing a fault? 


Businesses that prioritize constructive feedback foster an environment of continuous improvement. Taking the time to give and receive feedback provides new insight into how we can improve and adapt to those around us. It ensures we don’t become set in our ways and that we are always open to learning how we can do and be better.


💡 Foster an environment of continuous feedback with WorkPatterns


Have you heard about WorkPatterns?

WorkPatterns provides One on Ones, Team Collaboration, Feedback, Recognition & Goals — all in one place. With WorkPatterns, you can guide your team with effective meetings, continuous feedback, and goal management.  


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