The Importance of Adaptability

· by Herb Dew

Herb is the CEO of HTI. He founded HTI in 1999 along with John Knight and David Sewell, and remains heavily involved in the organization today.
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I recently saw a list of the top 5 soft skills companies were looking for in the current employment environment. They were listed in this order:

  1. Creativity
  2. Persuasion
  3. Collaboration
  4. Adaptability
  5. Time management

I agree with all of these, but I want to spend time today writing about what I believe to be the most overlooked skill necessary for all employees to be successful, and more importantly for companies to be successful in this current business climate.


I had the opportunity last week to hear one of my good friends, Mike Mansuetti (President of Bosch North America), speak to a manufacturing conference about the importance of companies building adaptability into their culture. His company, Robert Bosch, is an automotive components supplier, but is also in several other product lines that are highly regarded worldwide. He discussed a word that has been on my mind a lot the last 2 weeks.


It is incredibly compelling how the words disruption and adaptability relate to each other. Disruption creates the need for change, adaptability is an organization or an individual’s ability to handle the disruption. Industries that face more disruption require more adaptability, but all companies in this environment, with ever-changing technology, are facing much more frequent disruption in how their business operates.

So, what does adaptability look like?

Adaptability is largely a learned skill. I think organizations need to build opportunities to discuss innovation into their culture. Give employees the ability to express their thoughts and ideas, and embrace change – acknowledging that disruption will occur. We must not be afraid to identify the source of a disruption, be aware that many of us fear change, and then allow celebrations of adaptability.

Adaptability. Webster’s Dictionary defines adaptability as “the quality of being able to adjust to new conditions; the capacity to be modified for a new use or purpose.”

So, change. In the list I stated above, all of those words are critical; most are relational. But adaptability is a trait that, I believe, scales all jobs: customer-facing, operationally-facing, or service-facing. Those individuals that are not afraid or face their fear and embrace the idea of acknowledging disruption and change, are allowing themselves to adapt, to grow. Every task an employee takes on, even the seemingly small ones, builds the skills and knowledge necessary to expend on their process within their field. Thus, progressing their individual skills and the company as a whole.

Don’t be afraid to talk openly with your peers or coworkers about disruptions.

Often, you’ll find they’re all feeling the same way. Then, suddenly, you begin to create a positive change in a culture instead of allowing disruption to be a negative. So, embrace disruption. Adapt what you’re doing each day to handle that disruption and allow adaptability to drive positive change.