Jason Shen is a three-time startup founder and CEO of Midgame, a gaming technology company supported by Techstars and Betaworks.
It is no secret This adaptability has become a crucial feature for knowledge workers. In order to keep an overview in a rapidly developing world, we have to evaluate new situations, make intelligent decisions and implement them effectively.
According to a 2014 Barclays research report, 60% of employers report that adaptability has grown in importance over the past decade, and the BBC describes adaptability as the "X factor" for career success in times of technological change.
But even the most fearless executives, entrepreneurs or freelancers would be forgiven for fighting to adapt to a global pandemic. The effects of the corona virus have been relentless: full-capacity hospitals, students sent home, conference cancellations, sold-out inventory, free-fall markets and cities that are blocked.
Whatever you thought 2020 would look like, you were absolutely wrong. Box CEO Aaron Levie and Stanford Professor Bob Sutton The recent Twitter exchange said it all:
Not just startups. Every big company, every non-profit organization, every government organization and most people too
– Bob Sutton (@work_matters), March 16, 2020
At this moment we need to learn new skills, develop new habits and let go of old ways of working. In the book "Range" there is a chapter on "Deleting familiar tools", which describes how experienced professionals learn about certain behaviors and then cannot adapt to new circumstances. This mentality affected everyone, from firefighters to flight crews to NASA engineers, often with fatal consequences, and underscores how difficult it can be to adapt to change.
To encourage adaptability in this unprecedented moment, I looked for answers in unexpected places. I learned the following:
Let go of your attachments
Adaptability is primarily needed when circumstances change. It is easy to commit yourself to certain results, especially if they have been planned well in advance or have a significant emotional weight.
Due to the corona virus, a couple I know is postponing the wedding, which was originally scheduled for April. After I made a covenant for life a year ago, I can't imagine how frustrating it must be for them. But it was the right decision; Demanding that the show go on would have been dangerous for their families, friends, and the general public.
I recently spoke to my friend Belinda Ju, a manager with many years of meditation practice. Non-attachment is a core concept of Buddhism, the spiritual path she has taken for many years, and I wanted her thoughts on how this idea could help us adapt to unforeseen circumstances.
"Appendix doesn't work because security doesn't work. You can't predict the future," she said. Being tied to something means "seeing the world through the wrong lens. Nothing is fixed." For Ju and her customers, means nothing – Attachment not that you give up your goals, but focus on what you can control.
"You may have a set goal: you need to raise X million dollars to keep your team alive," she said. “In the age of the corona virus, investors may react more slowly. What are the levers in your control? What are your options and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each? "
Your points convinced me. As the founder of a NYC-based startup, I prepared for several trips to the west coast to start the next round for my company Midgame, a digital party host for gamers.
I like to pitch personally, but of course that won't happen, so I have to consider video calls as my new reality. This way I can stock up on coffee, tidy up my work area and set up a microphone. So when I advertise on video, I bring my A-game.
To be present
Another way to think about adaptability is to improvise. In the theater, improvisation artists cannot rely on pre-written lines and have to react in real time to suggestions from the audience or to the words and actions of their scene partners.
"Playing the scene you are in is a principle of improvisation, which means being present in the situation you are in."
Mary Lemmer told me that. As an entrepreneur and VC who spent time at The Second City improvisation theater in Chicago, Lemmer knows a thing or two about how to adapt. Today she brings her knowledge to the company through training and workshops.
She explained that as an improviser, you can start a scene with a certain idea of how it will go, but that can change quickly. "If you're not around," she said, "don't listen actively, and since there is no script, you will miss out on details." Then the scenes fall apart. "
When I was PM at Etsy and we got off to a great start, we brought engineering, development, product, marketing and customer support together in one room to talk about the final sequencing of events. These were not always the most exciting meetings and it was easy to get distracted by email or chat. Once, engineering announced a significant last-minute problem that almost slipped through the cracks. Fortunately, someone asked a clarifying question and we were all able to work together to minimize the problem.
Lemmer argues that improvisation and business cannot make assumptions about people or situations. “We see this very often in board meetings. People assume that "Sally" will always be the proactive or "Jim" will always be the naysayer and will shut down. "
This attitude is problematic in a stable environment, but downright dangerous in an unstable situation where new data and events can quickly open up new challenges and opportunities.
Some experts thought early on that the coronavirus crisis would stabilize worldwide by April. In early February, S & P Global announced that the virus would be included in the worst-case scenario by the end of May. A month later, this prediction already looked extremely optimistic.
Build mental toughness
Experts are now saying that the cases could peak in May or June, which means everyone should squat for eight or more weeks of social distancing and isolation. A COVID-19 vaccine has just started human trials, but testing large enough sample sizes to identify side effects and then ramping up production may not be fully available for more than a year.
In other words, dealing with this virus is not a sprint but a marathon. A marathon for which no one has registered.
Someone who knows a lot about this topic is Jason Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is a 2:39 marathon runner and helps people run faster and healthier as an author and coach.
When we spoke on the phone, he pointed out that, unlike basketball or gymnastics, running is a sport in which “you have to feel more and more discomfort voluntarily”.
Fitzgerald calls this ability to endure “mental toughness,” an ability that we can all build. Runners are required to complete workouts that scare them into higher mileage than in the past and to race regularly. It's also about accepting and even accepting the pain of walking hard.
The same applies to the adjustment. We can train ourselves to respond better to changes (we're all getting a lot of practice right now!), But it's always uncomfortable to develop new habits and work in new ways. As the decorated cyclist Greg LeMond once said: "It doesn't get easier, you just get faster."
We also have to realize that we don't do it right every time. "The more we become familiar with poor performance, the more we can learn from them," said Fitzgerald, noting that he had his share of bad races, including the failure to finish an ultramarathon in 2015. "Sometimes you stay in a bad race for a few days, but then you just have to forget it and continue with your training."
Many of us have had more cancellations, suspensions, and full eighties in the past month than in the past five years. But we cannot let our feelings of frustration or disappointment hold us down. We accept our new reality, learn from it what we can and move on.
It is clear that those who can let go of their previous plans and embrace the new environment will thrive. We can already see that companies are switching from live events to online webinars and remote first jobs are becoming the new normal. Portions of zoom have risen although the stock market has struck, and I am sure that more winners will emerge in the coming weeks and months.
Adaptability is important not only for individuals or companies, but also for governments. For China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, life is returning to normal thanks to aggressive tests and quarantine efforts. New cases are declining and there is hope that life will normalize again in the near future. Countries like Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States, which have botched their reaction to the progression of the disease, are now facing increasingly dire consequences.
Whether you survive a global pandemic, advance to the next stage in your career, or want to be selected on a mission to Mars, it's hard to overstate the importance of adaptability to get there.