30 March 2022

Using our adaptability intelligence

Well it seems, unfortunately, that the subject matter of adaptability might be more relevant to you, then anyone would really want right now…

This was how Collective Intelligence alumni, Rich Alderton, opened his hour-long online session on adaptability intelligence in our recent March MeetUP. We Kiwis found ourselves deep in the cresting wave of Omicron sweeping our country and here was I – sitting on Zoom at 10am on an autumnal Wednesday morning in my office in Feilding. There in front of me was Rich – sitting in his lounge in Cambridge, UK at 9pm, delivering to us a succinct presentation on one of the most important ‘intelligences’ a company can have.

Adaptability, as defined by Rich, is the confluence of three key things – curiosity, courage and speed:

Adaptability is having the curiosity to see the opportunity or need for change, the courage to embrace it, and the speed to pivot quickly.

~Rich Alderton: High Performance Change

We have all seen examples of when the ‘right change’ at the ‘wrong time’ has yielded the wrong result – yet Rich stressed the importance of grabbing the window of opportunity when it arises. Applying your adaptability skills effectively needs to not only involve the ability to learn new stuff, but also the ability to un-learn old stuff.

Basically, if you are open to the idea of change you are progressing, if you are not, you are regressing as a business – and there’s a monster gap between these two possible outcomes!

As I listened to Rich’s presentation, I reflected on the work we’d done that had led me to this point – 3 days deep into a 2-week long virtual meet-up of our members and alumni that we had put together with 3 weeks notice. Here we were, putting into practice those very adaptability skills being talked about on-screen.

As a business that brings people together, throughout this pandemic we have aimed to respond (and respond early) to the limitations imposed around what we can and can’t do; delivering our service to our members as best we could as each ‘new thing’ crossed our radar. When Omicron reared its spiky proteins in our part of the world, it forced us in early February 2022 to make a call to shut down our first tranche of face-to-face team meetings for the year.

We called an online hui with our team facilitators, and asked, “So, now what team?” Sue Johnston was the first to respond, with a, “Let’s do something completely different!”, and then Manda Johnson followed with a, “Let’s do a big online get-together…”

Within 20 minutes we had the bones of an idea mapped out, and everyone was 100% committed to delivering a three-sessions-per-day, one-week long, online meet-up (which later morphed into two weeks). Karen was up to doing the necessary Zoom training and program planning, Bettina got onto the comms, and Michelle piped in with, “Why don’t we include that conversation about loving yourself and your nation gig you’ve been mulling over”. I then got on the phone and coerced some panellists and a few presenters – although most stepped-up of their own accord.

What I love about this story looking back now, is that it was a true team effort delivered at the height of a pandemic in response to a real challenge. Plus, for us the timing was right – as Collective Intelligence is just starting to expand our reach beyond just our long-standing, individual team-based model to a more team-based ecosystem-inspired community model.

Many of the presenters were alumni of ours who quickly put their hand up to help as a way of re-engaging with a group of people, and a way of looking at the world, that they miss. The epic two-part UNscripted conversation sessions that we thew open to the public saw many people attending who had never engaged with us before.

UNscripted Zoom call in action

Our UNscripted online conversation in action on March 7.

Oh, and the feedback we got on the whole thing has been pretty good – an excellent shot in the arm for us when thinking about how we might offer more value to our community in the future.

So, back to me sitting at my desk with Rich and the crew…I had always thought our adaptability intelligence in the office was pretty good, and here was the evidence of it in action. Thinking back to Rich’s key adaptability intelligence ingredients – curiosity, courage and speed – what did we learn from this exercise in changing direction?

  • Constantly firing up our collective ‘curiosity muscle’ sits at the heart of how we work, and it works well for us. We ask lots of questions; we seek input from lots of people and we like trying new things! And new things can become usual things very quickly. Thanks to the success of our big meet-up experience we’re now planning to hold twice-yearly, mini online meet-ups for our community, with a program structure modified in response to the feedback we’ve received.
  • We’ve been practicing flexing our courage muscle more . We’re exploring with, and learning from, different segments of our Collective Intelligence community on how we can best go about creating more connections like those sown in this recent event. This courage will culminate later this year with us releasing a new IT platform to host greater interaction between current members and alumni.
  • We’re a small but nimble base-team, which means we can usually move pretty fast to enact an idea. More importantly we know some clever people in our networks who also work at speed (thanks Erica Austin, Hannah Smith, and our facilitators). In a situation like this (with just 3 weeks prep to put together and run 2 weeks of online events), they helped us upskill, learn and deliver.

We also support the leadership development of a bunch of VERY cool and adaptive people – our members and alumni. People who can also see the value and the need to adapt to a world that is rapidly changing around us, and who are keen to jump aboard this journey of discovery with us.

I’m so looking forward to seeing what other muscles our team and our community can grow from here in 2022!

And if you want to watch Rich’s presentation – here it is:

Ian Harvey (Harv)


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