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Adaptability

The Art of Winning in an Age of Uncertainty

By Max McKeown
15-minute read
Audio available
Adaptability: The Art of Winning in an Age of Uncertainty by Max McKeown

Adaptability (2012) examines a skill that’s becoming ever more important in today’s fast-paced and highly fickle business environment: the ability to adapt. It’s what makes the difference between successful innovators who go on to thrive and stick-in-the-muds who struggle to survive or simply go under. Packed with illuminating portraits of both, these blinks analyze adaptability in action everywhere from the golf course to the battlefield and the boardroom.

  • Entrepreneurs and self-starters
  • managers and strategists
  • marketplace Machiavellis

Max McKeown is a consultant who’s worked with some of the world’s biggest firms including Microsoft, Virgin, Sony and Vodafone. When he’s not helping business leaders fine-tune their strategic planning, you’ll find McKeown on the lecture circuit giving talks on innovation, creating engagement and securing a competitive advantage. His previous books include The Truth About Innovation (2008) and The Strategy Bank (2012).

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Adaptability

The Art of Winning in an Age of Uncertainty

By Max McKeown
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Adaptability: The Art of Winning in an Age of Uncertainty by Max McKeown
Synopsis

Adaptability (2012) examines a skill that’s becoming ever more important in today’s fast-paced and highly fickle business environment: the ability to adapt. It’s what makes the difference between successful innovators who go on to thrive and stick-in-the-muds who struggle to survive or simply go under. Packed with illuminating portraits of both, these blinks analyze adaptability in action everywhere from the golf course to the battlefield and the boardroom.

Key idea 1 of 9

Life is unpredictable even for the successful, which is why adaptability is so important.

In 2009, American golf star Tiger Woods’s position in the sport’s global rankings took a nosedive. By 2011 he’d slipped from number one to 58th place. It was an odd sight, especially since Woods had been known for his incredible consistency since bursting onto the scene in 1996. So what went wrong?

Well, it was a sign of the golfing god’s mortality. Life is unpredictable, and even the most successful people can’t always dodge the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. It turned out that Woods’s on-field performance problems had roots in his personal life.

In 2009, the media ran a story about him crashing his car outside his house. Neighbors told reporters they’d seen his wife chasing after him with a golf club in her hands. Rumors of substance abuse and infidelity began circulating and major sponsors including Gatorade and Gillette dropped their formerly prized sponsee.

Woods didn’t let any of that get to him, however. In fact, he demonstrated just how important adaptability is when you’re faced with setbacks. He continued working hard, even as his stats slipped, and learned how to deal with the media pressure he was under. His perseverance paid off. By March 2013, he was back at the top of world golf rankings.

That makes Woods a poster boy for what the author calls, “High adaptability, high achievement people,” or HAHAs for short. That’s a pretty fitting acronym: HAHAs are people who can laugh in the face of adversity and, over time, claw their way back to the top.

What sets them apart is their ability to focus on solutions rather than problems. They look on the bright side of life even as things seem to be falling apart around them, and they remain determined to achieve their goals. They’re also typically unafraid to ask for help and reach out to people who can support them in their struggle to reassert themselves.

But these blinks aren’t just about golf. Now that we’ve seen what adaptability looks like in practice, let’s take a look at how it works in business contexts.

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