For individuals and businesses facing the extraordinary situation we all find ourselves in, the ability to ADAPT is incredibly important. Charles Darwin suggested “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
Just to be clear I am not talking about our personal ability to survive the virus, I am talking about our ability to survive the situational consequences of the virus.
On that basis here’s my guide on how to ADAPT to this current situation and ensure we are wherever possible, better able to cope with the current situation and better prepared for possible future changes:
A – Acceptance
When change happens to people, particularly change that feels outside of our control, it is possible that our energy gets focused into non-productive feelings and behaviours, The Kubler-Ross change curve suggests that people go through different stages when faced with change. These 5 stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.When Kubler-Ross wrote about these stages it was in the context of grief and she explained that these are normal reactions we have to tragic news. In fact she called them coping mechanisms that we need to move through in order to manage change. We don’t move through the stages one at a time, in a neat, linear, manner, we can occupy different stages at different times and can even move back to stages we have been in before.
The Kubler-Ross change curve is a useful model to help understand our own response to change and that our energy can be more proactively focused once we have acknowledged and accepted the reality of the situation. It is primarily when we move into acceptance that we can start to look forward and let go of the unhelpful feelings or behaviours of the past.
D – Determine
Our customers and those around us will still have needs, it’s just that those needs will most likely have changed. Perhaps they won’t be in a position to buy right now, but that doesn’t mean they won’t need our insight, contacts and experience. Now is a great time to both determine what people now want and need and be determined to help where possible.
- determine how the landscape we’re operating in has changed,
- determine what it is that customers and those around us, now need from us,
- determine how our unique strengths and capabilities can deliver those new needs.
Even those industries experiencing growth in the current climate will still be experiencing change. In our sales training programmes, we are constantly encouraging sales people to explore how they can create and communicate differential value for their customers. Now is the time for sales people to demonstrate their value; ‘how do I sell?’ has most definitely become ‘how do I help?’.
A – Anticipate
The Covid-19 situation has taught us that change can come faster and hit harder than we ever imagined. If change-readiness wasn’t already a subject for discussion in your business, it certainly will be going forward.
There’s a fantastic little book that I’d highly recommend, as it is hugely relevant to the current situation; ‘Who Moved my Cheese?’ by Spencer Johnson. A parable that centres around four characters living inside a maze – two mice; Sniff and Scurry and two small humans; Hem and Haw. Using different methods, both pairs locate a daily pile of cheese inside the maze. The cheese represents happiness in its every form. The two mice locate the cheese by getting straight on with the task and applying trial and error. Meanwhile, the two humans apply much greater thought and analytics to the situation but still locate the cheese. Overtime the mice and the humans grow to realise that the cheese can always be found at Cheese Station C. The mice continue their practice of getting up early sniffing around and running towards the cheese whereas the humans begin to take the cheese for granted and get lazier in their approach. When the cheese disappears one day, the mice quickly adapt and find their way to a new source of cheese. Meanwhile the humans … I won’t tell you how it ends for the humans but, suffice to say, the book provides an interesting lesson in ADAPTability, with startling parallels to our current global situation.
If like the mice you are busy making changes to adapt to this new situation, just be careful to avoid metaphorically painting yourselves into a corner. This experience has taught us that we must ideally anticipate change and whilst it is unrealistic to perfectly anticipate unexpected change, at least anticipate the possibility of change so that we can adapt again and again.
P – Proactivity
Instead of reacting to or worrying about conditions over which they have little or no control, proactive people focus their time and energy on things they can control. Stephen Covey, the author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” when discussing the impact of different stimuli on people; for example negative situations or even the weather, suggested “Between the stimulus and the response is your greatest power–you have the freedom to choose your response.” He further suggested that it is not the stimulus itself that can cause us the most harm it is our chosen response to it.
One of the most important things you choose is your mindset. Your language is a good indicator of how you see yourself. A proactive person uses proactive language such as “I can, I will, I prefer.” A reactive person uses reactive language for instance “I can’t, I have to, if only.” Proactive people recognise that they are “response-able.” They don’t blame genetics, circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behaviour. They know they choose their behaviour. Reactive people believe they are not responsible for what they say and do, they believe they have no choice.
It will come as no surprise how important proactivity and positivity is to achieving effective outcomes. You only have to look at the research from studies on the placebo effect to see this. Focusing on what you can do, rather than what you can’t and looking for new and innovative ways of doing things are key. Now is most definitely a time for choosing a helpful response, encouraging yourself and others to think creatively and applying problem-solving skills.
T – Test and Learn
As with the mice in ‘Who Moved my Cheese?’, the process of testing, learning from that and then re-testing is critical to success. We need to learn to fail fast in times of change, if something’s not working, move on and try something different. If we spend our time over-analysing, drawing up lengthy detailed plans, we won’t be as successful, simple as that.
As human beings, we naturally move towards familiar states and ways of doing things. Doing something differently requires more effort and greater risk. However, in times such as these, the risk of standing still and doing things the way we’ve always done them is far greater. ADAPT and succeed!