Table of contents:

What is adaptive thinking and why entrepreneurs should develop it
What is adaptive thinking and why entrepreneurs should develop it

This skill is vital to succeed in difficult times.

What is adaptive thinking and why entrepreneurs should develop it
What is adaptive thinking and why entrepreneurs should develop it

What is this type of thinking

Adaptive thinking is the ability to assess existing facts and circumstances and change something in your behavior strategy in order to thrive in these circumstances. This type of thinking can also be defined as the ability to seize the moment, learn from failure, and change course to move on. It could even be said to be a key skill for leaders. It allows you to make good decisions and deal with complex problems.

Adaptive thinking has four components:

  1. Ability to anticipate likely future needs, trends and opportunities.
  2. Ability to articulate these needs for the team to understand.
  3. Adaptation to new conditions, which leads to constant learning and adjustment of their actions.
  4. Transparency of decision making and openness to feedback.

What are the benefits of adaptive thinking

Nothing lasts forever. Times change and companies change with them. To be a successful entrepreneur, you need to adapt. This skill is especially valuable during crises, when the situation becomes uncertain and volatile, there is not enough information, and a quick response is required.

To make the right decision in a difficult period, you need the ability to "move away" from the circumstances in which you find yourself, and look at everything from afar. Leadership author Ronald Heifetz calls it "going up to the balcony and watching the dancers from above." This technique helps create distance between you and the situation and understand what is happening outside of your normal field of vision.

The problem is that creating this distance in a crisis situation often seems impossible. When you face new difficulties every day, you completely immerse yourself in the struggle with them and see nothing else. But just then it is especially important not to rely on old approaches, but to look for new ways.

How to develop adaptive thinking

1. Be both a participant and an observer

As Heifetz says, leadership is the art of improvisation. An entrepreneur needs to constantly return from the "balcony" to the "dance floor" and back, month after month, year after year. Because one day the action plan you have chosen may work, and the next day you may find unforeseen consequences of your decisions and you will have to rebuild.

Stop periodically and look around you. Watch and listen. If you focus too much on your past strategies, you will miss out on the chance to innovate.

2. Constantly evaluate the results of your actions

This will give you the opportunity to adjust your steps if necessary, which is the basis of adaptive thinking. For example, during the coronavirus pandemic, many switched to remote work, respectively, the conditions and needs of employees have changed. In such a situation, it is more important than ever to monitor how they react to new approaches to work, and rebuild depending on the results of observation.

By regularly evaluating your actions and their results, you adapt faster to changing conditions.

3. Admit your mistakes and learn from them

In difficult times, many people want to take the blame for the company's difficulties and shift it onto someone else. Resist this urge and admit your own mistakes. If you believe that mistakes reflect only lack of experience, not lack of ability, they will not stop you, but will be an opportunity for you to grow and become better.

In any case, you will be wrong while looking for new ways of development. This is not a reason to shut yourself off from yourself and others. Remind yourself of this. Be open, answer questions, admit that you are wrong, ask for forgiveness - these are not indicators of weakness. These are the tools that will help you become better and more trustworthy.

4. Build trust in the team

Talk openly with team members about which of the chosen methods work and which don't. This is the secret of successful collaboration, which at the same time will help to identify ways to solve complex problems.

Don't be afraid to admit that some of your decisions were not perfect. Openness creates a psychologically safe environment that is vital for an effective crisis response. In this environment, employees know that in the workplace, they can voice ideas, ask questions, share concerns, and admit mistakes. And they know that their contribution is appreciated.

It is by listening to other people's points of view that you can create the distance that is needed to see the situation from the outside.