Emotional intelligence Personal growth Leadership Talent & HR

Adaptability quotient

Adaptability Quotient

The way we work, live, and relate to one another is fundamentally shifting. Extraordinary technological advances in automation and artificial intelligence, disruptive innovation, and globalization have resulted in an unprecedented rate of change. In the business world, leaders are constantly having to rethink how their organizations create value and stay relevant in an uncertain environment. In addition, the future of work is rapidly changing. The expiration date of employee skills is being shortened by technological advancements, so much so that a typical business competency is relevant for approximately 4.2 years, down from 30 years in 1984. The World Economic Forum estimates 65 per cent of jobs that currently exist will no longer exist by the time today’s primary school children enter the workforce.

To remain relevant, organizations and employees must be adaptable. 

What is adaptability quotient?

Adaptability Quotient (AQ) is the ability to determine what’s relevant, to forget obsolete knowledge, overcome challenges, and adjust to change in real time. Those with a high AQ demonstrate the following behaviours:

  • Open-mindedness. They actively work on managing their unconscious biases to remain open to possibilities.
  • They actively seek to view situations from the perspectives of others.
  • They prioritize developing new skills and continually invest in their own learning to better prepare themselves for an uncertain future.

Adaptable leaders and employees are better equipped to support their business’s needs as they change and grow – and they’re in high demand.

As customer demands, market trends, and technological advances continue to evolve, organizations must have the ability to adjust and adapt to change to stay competitive. To do this, they need leaders and employees who can easily adapt to rapidly evolving situations. That’s why AQ is an essential measure for evaluating prospective employees. In fact, AQ is such an important quality that NASA includes it as one of the five key characteristics they look for in prospective astronauts.

How can adaptability quotient be measured?

To ensure an organization’s resilience to change, its people need to have a high AQ. Part of creating a culture of adaptability involves hiring for adaptability. One UK study found 91 per cent of HR decision-makers survey valued candidates with the ability to “cope with change" above all else.

During the hiring process, there are many tools you can use to determine a candidate’s AQ. Incorporate talent assessments into your hiring process. Ask questions about each candidate’s past experiences and pay close attention to specific examples where they have demonstrated adaptability. Candidates with a high AQ are enthusiastic and positive when discussing how they navigated challenges and effectively responded to change.

How can adaptability be developed?

Adaptability takes years of practice responding mindfully to challenges as they arise. As a leader, you have the responsibility to influence your team and move your business forward. Like emotional intelligence, adaptability can be improved and refined. To improve AQ, you can:

  • Model high-AQ behaviour you want to see in your employees. Leaders who embrace the pacesetting leadership style can raise the AQ of their team by modeling adaptability and empowering team members to transform and update their skills. This will help to create an environment of resiliency to stress and adaptability to change.
  • Take control of your own learning journey. Recognize that you need ongoing professional development. Assume the responsibility for your own education and you’ll make yourself more marketable for years to come.
  • Make decisions about which roles to pursue based on how much you can learn. Prioritize future opportunities where you will learn valuable new skills.
  • Adapt a beginner’s mindset when facing change. Remind yourself of your ability to let go of old information and absorb new information.
  • Find an executive coach or mentor to help anticipate and develop new skills and competencies over time.
  • Embrace the five hour rule. The most adaptable – and successful – people devote five hours per week to reading and learning.

Practice adaptability

As mentioned above, adaptability takes practice. The Ivey Executive Program prepares leaders to face the challenges of a constantly changing business environment through practice. With experiential exercises and real-world case studies, you’ll be put in situations that challenge your adaptability and give you the opportunity to practice adaptability skills in a risk-free, safe environment. You’ll learn how to view rapid change as an opportunity, not just a barrier to overcome. The future of work is more than just being able to demonstrate a specific skill, but having the ability to learn and adapt. Raise yours and your organization's AQ with the Ivey Executive Program.


To learn more about The Ivey Executive Program, please download a program brochure.


About The Ivey Academy at Ivey Business School
The Ivey Academy at Ivey Business School is the home for executive Learning and Development (L&D) in Canada. It is Canada’s only full-service L&D house, blending Financial Times top-ranked university-based executive education with talent assessment, instructional design and strategy, and behaviour change sustainment. 

Rooted in Ivey Business School’s real-world leadership approach, The Ivey Academy is a place where professionals come to get better, to break old habits and establish new ones, to practice, to change, to obtain coaching and support, and to join a powerful peer network. Follow The Ivey Academy on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.