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Adaptability and how to future-proof your skill set for the decade ahead

Adaptability is the key to thriving in the future world of work as technologies change, employees rethink what they want from work, and customer expectations rise ever higher. All require a different set of skills, but one that will keep shifting. Add to this the COVID-19 pandemic that has disrupted our usual working routines, and it is little wonder that business leaders cite higher levels of uncertainty and anxiety. We cannot know what the future holds.

McKinsey Accelerate recently hosted a Virtual Exchange webinar that brought together members of the Consortium for Learning Innovation, a McKinsey-convened interdisciplinary network of leading thinkers and practitioners in the field of adult education and learning. The purpose of the session was to explore why adaptability is so important, the skills and outlook that mark an adaptable leader, and how to cultivate those skills.

The speakers were Amy Elizabeth Fox, cofounder and CEO of Mobius Executive Leadership, and Srini Pillay, CEO of the NeuroBusiness Group and chief medical officer and Cofounder of Reulay. It was facilitated by Stacey Dietsch, a partner in McKinsey’s Mexico City office, and Nicolai Nielsen, an expert associate partner in McKinsey’s New York office.

Have a listen below to the speakers on some of the topics explored:

Five learning tips

Learning sits at the root of adaptability. Five approaches that influence your mindset can encourage you to learn. 1. Reframe what learning means – it is not just sitting in a classroom; recognise and give yourself credit for the fact that that you are constantly learning. 2. Foster curiosity and excitement about learning. 3. Define your learning North star. 4. Develop your personal learning journey; manage your time to give yourself space to learn. 5. Start making micro changes to replace old skills with new ones.

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Five learning tips

Emotional intelligence and compassion

In times of uncertainty, emotional intelligence and compassion lead to higher levels of employee engagement, a greater sense of belonging, and creativity. In their absence, inflexibility of thinking takes hold—which is of little value in the face of an unstable, unpredictable future. The question is, can you teach emotional intelligence? The answer: it’s a natural capability that some of us have shut down to cope with life. We just need to learn how to unlock it.

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Emotional intelligence and compassion

Curiosity as a foundation for learning

Described as a “vital flame for vitality and restoration in an organization”, curiosity feeds the ability to embrace divergent perspectives and hence a willingness to learn. It also makes us more reflective and eager to understand and be touched by others’ life experiences, leading to better collaboration

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Curiosity as a foundation for learning

Intrinsic motivation

Adaptability, and the ability to continuously learn, requires intrinsic motivation in order to boost your effectiveness and sustain your energy over time. Are you clear about what you want to be good at? Are your choices self-directed? And are you socially connected? All will influence your intrinsic motivation and adaptability.

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Intrinsic motivation

Mindfulness and restoration

Being future-ready means being mindful. It creates an inner stillness that helps people adapt and become more resilient in the face of uncertainty. And it creates a sense of abundance and spaciousness in a day that counters exhaustion. Napping and doodling can be important restorative tools too. But establishing restorative practices is not discretionary, depending on your schedule. If we are to endure the marathon that lies ahead, we need to find the time to create inner renewal or we'll burn out.

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Mindfulness and restoration

This webinar shared insights related to a previous post: Buckle up! It’s time to future proof your skill set for the decade ahead.

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