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Future Fit: 6 Ways to Develop Your AQ

Summary of Andrea Clarke masterclass on adaptability in the workplace


“The only stable part of leadership is being anchored in knowing who we are.” – Andrea Clarke

McKinsey research shows that adaptability is the critical success factor during periods of transformation and systematic change. (1)

But exactly how do we adapt to change efficiently and rapidly?

Leading a masterclass for Growth Faculty, author of Future Fit and founder of FutureFitCo Andrea Clarke says it’s about:

·       Your talent

·       The way you respond to change

·       Agency. How you decide to give yourself direction, protection, and order

“We need to examine our relationship to change,” she says. “Are we active participants in our own transformation?”

Andrea says the core principles to building agency are high AQ (adaptability quotient), situational awareness, selectively network, regulate emotions, position ourselves as learners, and manage our energy and move.

6    ways to develop our AQ

Andrea told the masterclass there are six ways to develop our adaptability quotient.

1.Signals of change.

If you can detect a hazard early you have more options (think of a car braking).

Knowing this, people with high AQ pay attention to things around them.

Andrea used the examples of secretaries rebranding themselves as executive assistants, personal assistants, and office managers when they saw the increase in personal computers in their offices.

So, ask yourself these questions:

·       What are the signals of change in your industry?

·       What is your own consumer behaviour?

·       Do you set Google Alerts for your industry, your boss, yourself?

·       Who is the best in the world at your job?

·       Where is the real market intelligence?

When change is detected take 4 steps: Engage with it (how can you proactively engage in trends), Accept it, Activate it (use optimism and energy to convert challenges to opportunities), and Release (move forward, let go of what might hold you back – such as status or ego crutches). 

2. Run ‘what if’ scenarios

Be your own pilot, get in the simulator, and train for change. Test multiple versions of the future to stimulate the brain. Don’t test how you retain knowledge, test how you apply it.

3. Practice unlearning

Unlearning is a system or process or moving away from outdated concepts, and taking in new information to inform effective decision making and action. As Barry O’Reilly explained in his masterclass, start with tiny behaviours.

Andrea Clarke gave the example of an engineer (in this YouTube video) who reconfigured a bicycle (and his brain). He changed the bike so that to turn the wheel to the right you had to turn the handlebars to the left. It took him 8 months to learn to ride this bike.

4. Explore over exploit

When we’re too busy exploiting a success, we’re not exploring what could be about to disrupt us.

5. Play the outside game

Diverse perspectives will always help – so ensure you look “outside the window.” Ask a range of people, “What are you seeing on the ground?”

6. Be intentional

Andrea use the example of a time when she lost her job and felt devastated. She said to herself words to the effect of “okay, you can cry now, but tomorrow at 8 a.m. it’s stopping and you’re taking action.” 

Communication and change

Andrea emphasised the importance of the critical soft skill of communication.

“There is a correlation between our ability to communicate successfully and our ability to lead successfully,” she says.

·       Clear, candid and frequent communication is critical to exercising authority and responding to change.

·       We have not communicated effectively until we have delivere a message and it has been understood in the way we intended it to be understood.

·       All communication is about creating change.

Andrea recommended the video of Qantas CEO Alan Joyce making a speech on job losses as an example of clear communication, and an expression of clear vision and values.

Leadership development opportunity


·       Become a better leader with a Growth Faculty Pass. Modern leadership requires development in areas such as empathy, self-awareness, inclusivity, psychological safety, trust, team-building, communication, unlearning, and adaptability.

·       These skills and more are among core topics included in our Growth Faculty Pass

·       Unlimited access to 40 live virtual masterclasses and Global Headliner virtual events – PLUS year-round leadership content at On Demand with videos, podcasts and book summaries.

·       Join a community of knowledge seekers who are inspired by the best. See who’s up next.


"Future proof: Solving the ‘adaptability paradox’ for the long term", 2021, McKinsey website


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