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Leadership & Management

Rethinking your competitive edge: An increasingly relevant capability for success

Health Industry Hub | February 17, 2023 |

The healthcare industry is learning that as the pandemic abates new challenges are arising. With the workforce strains, economic uncertainty, and the unknown impact of war and climate change, the business environment is continuing to be volatile and complex.

A leader’s approach during disruptive times can determine whether a business thrives or dives.

While cognitive intelligence (IQ – intelligence quotient) determines a person’s competence in the job role, it has been widely accepted that it is a person’s level of EQ (emotional quotient) – self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management – that is more predictive of whether they will achieve ultimate success in their career over time.

According to John Spence, one of the world’s top business thought leaders, this thinking needs to make room for an increasingly relevant capability – AQ (adaptability / agility quotient).

More than ever, individuals and organisations must be adaptable, agile, nimble and resilient to survive in today’s highly competitive ecosystem.

People who have a high AQ create organisational adaptability. It is our aptitude for successfully navigating change when faced with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

According to Chuck Mollar, author of The Rise of the Agile Leader: Can You Make the Shift? “Many companies are attempting agile transformation, but without a shift in traditional leadership mindsets, abilities and development, they will not succeed. To navigate change and achieve success, you need to become an agile leader. Today’s leaders need to be agile in order to develop and drive agile teams, organisations, culture and results.”

Our brain has developed several features that help it maximise efficiency and reduce cognitive load in the face of volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environments. These features help the brain make sense of the world by habitually and automatically sorting items and experiences into categories. These categories are based on associations established through the array of our learned and lived experiences. This process of mental shortcutting saves the brain time, thereby conserving energy – critical in our hunter-gatherer days, when resources were scarce and threats were imminent. However, these shortcuts result in biases, habits and other forms of automatic cognition and behaviours.

Spence puts forward the four elements for shifting into personal agility.

Curiosity

Develop a a growth mindset and a strong desire to learn new ideas, skills and knowledge constantly. Critically important to this practice is the willingness to pursue information from multiple sources. Combining your personal experience with innovative ideas is what leads to innovative strategies.

Intellectual Rigor

You must invest the mental effort necessary to understand what you are learning from podcast, videos and the information you read at a deeper level. Then think about how to potentially apply it to your organisation and your personal success.

Flexible Thinking

When you practice intellectually rigorous curiosity, you’re going to come across ideas that seem uncomfortable or even in direct contradiction with what you have done in the past. Flexible thinkers are willing to try out new ways of doing things, question their assumptions, and let go of old beliefs that no longer work.

Speed

The most challenging part of building your AQ is that you must do it in a fast cycle. You must invest time every day to learn and take in new information that you can apply quickly to solve pressing problems. Speed wins.

Spence highlights a number of ways to improve AQ in organisations:

  1. Foster a culture of continuous improvement and promote continuous learning
  2. Promote cross-functional collaboration
  3. Foster a culture of experimentation
  4. Encourage transparency and open communication
  5. Foster a culture of empowerment

Importantly, 54% of HR leaders surveyed by Gartner in 2022 reported that their employees are facing ‘change fatigue’ – a general sense of apathy, resistance or passive resignation toward organisational changes. The Kotter Change Model is important for alleviating change resistance, says Spence.

  • Create an irresistible case for change.
  • Paint a vivid and compelling vision of the future.
  • Create a sense of urgency.
  • Form a powerful coalition of ‘change champions’

“Be a living example of a lifelong learner,” Spence urges.

“If you read 12 business books a year or equivalent electronic media courses and teachings, you are in the top 1% of the business community. You become what you focus on and who you surround yourself with.”


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