6 Practical Ways To Build Team Adaptability

Change is the name of the game; those who fail to adapt swiftly condemn themselves to irrelevance. To stay competitive in the long run, organisations need to develop the capability to:

  • Identify the need for adaptation
  • Strategise & implement adaptive measures
  • Monitor & evaluate the efficacy of implemented measures
  • Improve products, systems, and methodologies for adapting based on results & feedback


However, an organisation is only as good as its people. If its employees, teams, leaders, and departments aren’t adaptable, neither will the organisation.

We know how highly adaptable people embrace flexibility and change, but building an entire team’s adaptability requires slightly different conditions. Hence, here are six practical ways to cultivate team adaptability in the long run.

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1. Clarify organisational mission, team goals, and member roles


For efforts at adaptation to be genuinely fruitful, they need to be framed against the bigger picture. It isn’t just about having an eye out to improve past procedures or finetune existing processes at work. Adaptation has to occur with an eye to the future. Any changes introduced must be aimed at moving closer towards the organisation’s vision and mission.


Introducing change for the sake of having a change might help to achieve a team’s short-term goals, but it will probably not precipitate the large-scale innovation and flexibility that’s essential to a team’s long-term adaptability.

Supervisors need to ensure that there’s clarity among team members not just on the company’s vision and mission, but also on what the team goals are, as well as each team member’s role in contributing to those goals. Having a clear direction, reason, and aim for adaptation will help to solidify team commitment to adaptation and reduce resistance against it.



2. Capitalise on demographic and cognitive diversity


A good team is one that enjoys a good amount of diversity.

These days, workplace diversity is most commonly associated with having a multicultural, gender-balanced roster of employees. This alone can spark greater team adaptability out of sheer necessity to accommodate different cultural experiences.


What’s equally crucial to bolstering team adaptability is cultivating its cognitive diversity (having multiple modes of thinking, experience levels, and skill sets within the team.) If team members are largely homogenous in perspectives, the stagnation of thought this engenders will stifle the will and ability to adapt and cripple its ability to innovate as well.

Conversely, teams that are more cognitively diverse will perform better at every stage of the adaptation process. With so many perspectives in one group, they’ll naturally be quicker and more open to adaptation, on top of being better able to identify, implement, evaluate and improve adaptation efforts.


3. Create a culture of open communication


Just as the diversity of thought is vital to having more perspectives within a team, a culture of open communication is indispensable in ensuring that no perspectives in the team are silenced or censured.

Swift adaptation is often blocked by reluctant leadership or specific team members who can’t get on board with the idea of change. Having a space for everyone in the team to be completely honest in making their viewpoints heard without exception helps a lot in allowing a team to work through the inevitable interpersonal obstacles to adaptation more effectively.


Additionally, when every team member feels free to voice out their concerns, air their personal reservations, or make suggestions on improvement regardless of who they are, team adaptation efforts will be much better informed for maximum efficacy.


4. Make learning a top priority


Being able to adapt requires greater mental agility and a higher aptitude for horizontal and vertical thinking. Hence, leaders need to ensure that their teams receive the appropriate training to build the necessary skills.

For example, critical thinking is vital in identifying the need for adaptation. Creative and problem-solving skills are paramount when strategising and implementing adaptive measures.


It doesn’t stop at training, though: team members need to have the right mindset to be willing to use their skills productively for adaption. Here, Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck refers to the “growth mindset” as the number one determinant for success.

Those who have this mindset see their skills as dynamic instead of being set in stone. They thrive on challenges and change because they know it helps them put their skills to good use and develops them as well. They love adapting because they see it as an avenue towards growth.

On the other hand, those who have fixed mindsets have the opposite point of view. They perceive their skills to be static and unchangeable and hence tend to display greater amounts of resistance to new experiences and uncharted territory.


5. De-stigmatise failure


By nature, change and uncertainty go hand in hand; adapting to change carries a 50/50 chance of success and failure. More often than not, it is the fear of failure that holds people and teams back from opening themselves up to newer possibilities and leaving their comfort zone.

While it may be human to be afraid of the unknown, it is counterproductive in the search for growth and progress. Those who allow their fear of adapting to new environments and practices to get the better of them will stagnate.


Failure has to be understood as a learning opportunity for improved adaptation instead of as an indication of incompetence.

To that end, leaders must create environments where failure is de-stigmatised and even normalised. Instead of massive sanctions for failed adaptive measures, emphasize looking objectively at what went wrong and how to improve it moving forward.


6. Provide constant feedback


For maximum efficacy, adaptation efforts need to be supported by two-way feedback loops. Constructive criticism is often what helps to close the gap between the current shortcomings of implemented measures and the needs of the end user.

For this happen, the feedback given has to be specific and targeted, addressing the exact problem and why it needs to be corrected, while also being empathetic and encouraging to the team.



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