learn to adapt like a child to succeed in the 21st century

Change brings with it uncertainty.

Over the past 30 years we have undergone incredible change. So much so that I hardly recognize the world I live in.

Growing up I remember that our vacations were limited to a 4 hour radius from our house in Stoke-on-Trent in England.

We had one phone and it was in the kitchen.

We had one TV and a whopping 4 channels.

For me, change came slightly earlier than most. My parents told me in 1982 that we were moving overseas to somewhere called the Philippines.

I had no idea where that was nor what it was like, but I was 8. I didn’t know much.

Little did I know my parents knew next to nothing about it either.

The library in the nearby town had a grand total of 2 whole books that mentioned it.

It didn’t really hit me that I was doing something different till I went to my farewell ceremony at my elementary school.

The entire school was there…honoring me…I felt like an astronaut heading off to the moon.

I must admit that while I had some good friends back then I wasn’t a fan of the school. Still, that day I felt like a king.

From the moment I left England I learnt firsthand just how different the world is and how different people think.

I also had a ringside seat at the 1986 revolution there and again in Thailand in 1992.

Though I left Thailand that year I continue to go back as my parents decided to make Thailand their home and have seen it undergo incredible changes in a very short period of time.

Today the changes that are happening in front of our eyes is simply amazing.

We see economic changes, technological changes, social changes (2011 saw an incredible wave of uprisings in the Middle East and now it is taking root in Europe), changes of all sorts.

In today’s world, it really is “adapt or die.”

My father couldn’t adapt to the new system that was introduced for a variety of reasons, so he went the way of the dinosaurs – extinct.

I believe it was Keith Cunningham, who said that in today’s world “adaptability” is the key element of success.

Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon have maneuvered the waves of change well and have benefited well from adapting to what consumers want.

The other day when my son and I went to the park together, I was amazed to see how fast a three-year old can adapt to his environment.

We had never been to that particular park before and there were quite a few inclines and a variety of ways to reach the top of the slides. There were ropes, rocky paths, small wooden steps.

I must admit I was slightly concerned watching him run off as nearly all the other kids were 5 and up or under the age of 2.

The older kids ran around not missing a beat so my son followed suit, but nearly fell flat on his face a few times.

And yet, in less than 30 minutes, he had adapted.

But he couldn’t have done this if I had always been there holding his hand.

I knew the best thing for him was for him to learn on his own.

Today, many parents with their children, and managers with their staff, feel they have to watch their every move in order to prevent the inevitable falls.

This does not teach us to adapt, it teaches us dependence.

In life or in business dependence is for the most part not what is needed.

We need people to face the challenges head on even if it ends in failure.

Speaking as a manager and a parent, I much prefer it when someone tries solve a problem first rather than always coming to me to solve it for them.

If you’re one of those people who always has to be in control may I suggest the following actions.

  • Prevent yourself from stepping in too soon – sometimes people will surprise you.
  • While having an open-door policy, set times that you are unavailable – this will force people to act on their own during these times.
  • Be patient – Rome wasn’t built in a day. Don’t expect things to change overnight, but in time they will.
  • Delegate more – See what people can do. If they can achieve 80% of your skill level then most of the time this is good enough. All you have to do is the final check or adjustment.
  • Have training sessions, not meetings. Training sessions help improve people’s skills, 90% of meetings are a big waste of time.

Change comes fast and furious these days. Those who learn to adapt quickly will reap the benefits.

Stay ahead of the curve or face extinction.

Adrian Shepherd

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