Collective Adaptability

I am conscious of being in a liminal space recently, somewhere between gatherings happening digitally and in-person and a new “third way” of hybrid that has more variations than I can describe.

Liminal spaces are exciting and uncomfortable and tiring.

This particular transitional time reminds me to be grateful for the fact that adaptability (which we all need) is both an individual and a collective responsibility. The Adaptability Quotient assessment tool measures personal skills such as grit and resilience, but also collective features such as work environment and team support. This means that our shared environments can both contribute to and undermine our ability to adapt, just like our temperament and skillsets can.

One of the most frustrating times in the pandemic for me came when people were being told to address their mounting exhaustion with better self-care – a yoga class or a mindfulness seminar or getting more sleep. While these are all good things, systemic problems cannot only be addressed with individual remedies. Not only do those “solutions” not work, but they add to people’s load of responsibility and guilt.

This liminal time calls for a similar sensitivity to the fact that transitioning to new hybrid ways of gathering requires individual, corporate and systemic responses to help people adapt.

What might this look like in practice?

Frequent communication, clear expectations, and extending extra grace while we all figure this out in different ways.

Three practical examples: 

  1. Let’s assume that every meeting will involve people joining remotely, and plan accordingly. My recent experience would suggest this is a good idea, as people are frequently deciding to call in even to meetings most thought were going to be in-person. Planning for digital or hybrid avoids last-minute scrambling and lower quality collaborative experiences for everyone as a result.
  2. Let’s treat things explicitly as experiments. Acknowledge, out loud, that we are learning together and adjusting based on how things go. It will help people get less invested or irritable when a meeting goes poorly, or work arrangements need to change [again].
  3. Let’s work toward creating equity of experience no matter how people join in. Even more than that: I want that equitable experience to be excellent, not the worst of what both in-person and remote have to offer. This is hard to do in practice, but is emerging as one of my aspirational non-negotiables.

I’d welcome hearing what you are learning, not only about hybrid meetings but also about how adaptability can be seen as both an individual and corporate responsibility.

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