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Joint University and Small and medium sized enterprises Training


Key competences for the 21st-century workplace
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Adaptability skills

Learning outcomesClick to read  

At the end of this module you will:


be familiar with the fundamental concepts presented in this module

develop your soft skills and be able to apply them in the workplace

understand the opportunities and challenges offered by the addressed soft skills


Adaptability and flexibilityClick to read  

Adaptability is the ability to be flexible and adjust to changing factors, conditions or environments. Being adaptable is highly valued skill in workplace. Look at insights and thoughts on adaptability and the future of work by leaders from around the world in a mini-documentary film. Some people may find adaptation easy while others might find it more difficult. If you would like to develop this skill within yourself, consider build up your self-confidence, see a different perspective, recognize that failure happens.

Adaptability and flexibility are two very similar terms that differ slightly. You have to be flexible to be adaptable, but if you are flexible that doesn´t necessarily mean you are adaptable. In other words, flexibility is a component of being adaptable. Being flexible in life means that you can change your plans and adapt to new situations easily.

Workplace adaptabilityClick to read  

Workplace adaptability is the ability to respond effectively to different scenarios and challenges within the workplace. Becoming adaptable at work helps you respond to new situations, new roles, new projects, and new clients. Learning to become more adaptable at work takes time and focus, it is more about the journey than the end result. Learning soft skills like adaptability may not come with and official certification or be as measurable as hard skills, but they can do just as much, if not more, for your success if you are leader or team member.

Adaptable people develop targeted skill sets, processes, and frameworks that allow them to quickly and efficiently deal with different situations as they arise. Becoming adaptable at work helps you respond to new situations, new roles, new projects, and new clients. As you develop this skill set, you'll be able to face any change that comes your way. The Center for Creative Leadership breaks adaptability skills into 3 categories: Cognitive adaptability, emotional adaptability and personality adaptability.

Workplace flexibilityClick to read  

Workplace flexibility is the ability to evaluate occurrences and adjust to the roles and tasks or the job being offered. Workplace flexibility is a working arrangement whereby there is flexibility for an employee as to where he/she wants to work, the time he/she will work, and how he/she will work. 

Examples in which benefit both E-E is work-life balance, boosted productivity or be more responsive to change. Managers and leaders the world over transitioning from the traditional way of working to the new and modern way. For example: work from home option, workplace independence or option of working arrangement.

Small businesses are inclined into adapting workplace flexibility because they are trying to cut costs when it comes to the utilities and rent spending, they have the liberty to do this since their operations are not that large-scaled and they have a small number of people to handle.

Exercises and practiceClick to read  

Answer the following questions to see if you have adaptability or determine if it is a skill that you might need to work on some more:

  1. Are you good at taking advice?
  2. Can you adapt easily to new situations?
  3. Can you stand criticism?
  4. Are you a bad loser?
  5. Do you want to have the last word?
  6. Do you feel you can't stand being contradicted?
  7. Do you put down others' proposals?
  8. Do you feel you don't tolerate critics? (Jackson et. al., 2000)

Give yourself 1 point if you answered “no” to 1-3, and 1 point for each “yes” for 4-8. Higher scores could be indicative of less adaptable and more rigid ways of thinking.

Take a look at some examples on how you can build, refine, and grow your adaptability skills through exercises and practice:

Example: Leave your ego at the door

Your team recently hosted a creative brainstorming session, but your idea did not get chosen. It is normal to feel disappointed. But instead of staying sad about it, you can choose to let it go. Leave your ego at the door and embrace the idea your team  decided to move forward with. In doing so, you are making it safe for others to express their creativity with even more unique ideas. You are also teaching yourself that there are multiple solutions to a problem, and you can adapt no matter which one moves forward.

Analytical Thinking

The basicsClick to read  

“On average  about  forty  percent  of  the  human  mind  consists  of  data,  thirty  percent information,  twenty  percent  knowledge,  ten  percent  understanding,  and  virtually  no wisdom”  (Ackoff,  1989,  3).

Original graphic by Hugh MacLeod @hughcards, extended by David Sommerville @smrvl 

  • Data - is represented by a series of random dots that could mean something – or nothing.
  • Information - is where meaning or relationship is applied to the raw material.  This is indicated by applying different colours to the dots.
  • Knowledge - is gained when we are able to memorize the information, for i.e. standard multiplication tables or sunrise & sunset times in a given month. As we gain knowledge we begin to make sense of things and draw connections between different pieces of information.
  • Insight - is the level where data becomes seriously useful. Insight is the ability to synthesize knowledge in order obtain a deep understanding of a problem. With insight comes the prospect of
  • Wisdom – the ability to use insight to facilitate informed decision making.
The art of thinkingClick to read  

What is cognition? The ability to process information through perception, knowledge acquired through experience, and our personal characteristics that allow us to integrate all of this information to evaluate and interpret our world.

It is the ability that we have to assimilate and process the information that we receive from different sources (perception, experience, beliefs, etc.) and convert them into knowledge. It includes different cognitive processes, like learning, attention, memory, language, reasoning, decision making, etc., which are part of our intellectual development and experience.

What Is Logical Thinking?

The logical thinking definition is analyzing a situation or problem using reason and coming up with potential solutions. Logical thinkers gather all the information they can, assess the facts, and then methodically decide the best way to move forward.

„ Logical thinking is an essential tool in the workplace to help analyze problems, brainstorm ideas, and find answers. Employers want employees who can come up with the right solutions that are financially reasonable, probable, and actionable.“

What Is Logical Reasoning?

Logical reasoning is a type of problem-solving that involves working through a set of rules that govern a scenario. This set of rules or steps is referred to as an algorithm. Logical reasoning involves testing different sets of steps - or algorithms - to determine which sequence of rules leads to the correct solution

The trap called Belief systemsClick to read  

Belief systems are the stories we tell ourselves to define our personal sense of Reality. Every human being has a belief system that they utilize, and it is through this mechanism that we individually, “make sense” of the world around us.

Reason cannot prove the beliefs it is based upon. Beliefs arise through experience. Experience needs previous beliefs and reason to be assimilated, and reason needs experience to be formed, as beliefs need reason as well. Beliefs, reason and experience, are based upon each other. Context is dynamic, and formed upon beliefs, reason and experience. This is where relative understanding lies.

As relative understanding is independent of our context, it is also dependant on our beliefs, reasoning, and experiences. Contexts are dynamic because they are changing constantly as we have new experiences and change our beliefs and our ways of reasoning.


Open-mindedness, scepticism in critical thinking Click to read  

Open-mindedness is about being open to changing your mind in light of new evidence. It’s about detaching from your beliefs and focusing on unbiased thinking void of self-interest. It’s about being open to constructive criticism and new ideas.  

„On the other hand, seemingly, the disposition towards scepticism refers to an inclination to challenge ideas; to withhold judgment before engaging all the evidence or when the evidence and reasons are insufficient; to take a position and be able to change position when the evidence and reasons are sufficient; and to look at findings from various perspectives.“ 

A degree of skepticism is quite healthy as a counterpoint to being too credulous and being taken in by poor reasoning and illusions and deliberate attempts to mislead and deceive.  Skepticism that holds that it is not possible to have knowledge is self defeating and not productive.  There should be a skeptical inquiry that is used before humans reach conclusions and decide which beliefs they will hold.


Dispositions of a critical thinker Click to read  

12 personal traits to work on to become a flexible, adaptable, and complex critical thinker, resilient , and sought-after individual, and worker:

  • Inquisitiveness,  
  • Self-efficacy
  • Attentiveness 
  • Organization  
  • Creativity  
  • Reflection
  • Open-mindedness   
  • Intrinsic goal orientation  
  • Perseverance
  • Truth-seeking
  • Skepticism  
  • Resourcefulness
Final thought Click to read