Future Job Skill: Flexibility and Adaptability

“Be like water…”

“Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water…Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; you put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Be water, my friend.” – Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee’s words of wisdom highlight the need for flexibility and adaptability. If “the way we all work is going to change” as Richard Branson states in the near future, then flexibility and adaptability is a much-needed job skill. It is not only the workforce that is going to change but since 9/11 we have seen overnight how many things in our lives have changed at a rapid pace. In his book “Megachange,” Darrell M. West says, “Social, economic, and political patterns no longer are fixed but are generating rapid and transformative shifts. People need to be prepared for a scope of change that is grander than typically envisioned. Until we better understand these tectonic movements, it will be difficult for individuals and societies as a whole to deal with their extraordinary impact.”

Preparing our mindset is the first step in dealing with change. Though the words flexibility and adaptability may seem to be the same, they are both quite different. Flexibility denotes more short-term alterations, while adaptability implies long-term changes.


Bruce Lee continued his philosophy on the need for flexibility when he said, “Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.” As everyday challenges affect our lives, how we respond initially will have a ripple effect on other goals. Learning to be open-minded and creative helps individuals to be more flexible.  For example, there was a novice climber who once encountered a significant problem – there were no cracks ahead of him to grab in order to continue his climb. As he panicked, his instructor asked him what the problem was. He explained his predicament. Rhetorically, the instructor asked, “Who said you had to climb straight?” At this point, the climber realized there were cracks to his left and his right so he zig-zagged his way to the top. We have to develop a similar mindset. Not everything we need in life will appear directly in front of us. Flexibility will help us reach our goals. So as the winds of societal change continue to challenge us, we need to be flexible enough to take divergent paths to achieve our goals.

Flexible like bamboo…


Paine Webber, Blockbuster, Radio Shack, Kodak, Toy’s R Us are examples of how quickly a business can fall behind the competition if they do not innovate to meet consumer demand or adapt to new ways of operating. Management may have thought that new developments were fancy fads and flashy gimmicks. They stuck to an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality. Unfortunately, we see what a lack of adaptability can do to a product and a business. What’s just as sad were the numerous unemployed individuals trying to find other work, but with the same lack of adaptability. They did not realize that the workforce was changing. Companies that do not adopt new modes of business hurt their product and customers. They also do their employees a disservice. The more employees understand the value of flexibility and adaptability, the more receptive they are to an organization’s direction and need for change. Providing seminars encourage and train employees on how they can develop skills related to flexibility and adaptability can improve problem-solving and decision-making skills.

If an individual sees that their place of employment is not keeping up with the times, they should take the initiative and become agents of change. Consider how to improve productivity at their jobs, specifically within their departments. Learn skills that can help you work better and smarter.

Presently, a form of project management that is helping companies work more efficiently and effectively is the Agile Methodology. The Harvard Business Review’s article, “Embracing Agile,” states that NPR, John Deere, SAAB, and GE’s Agile approach “is not only accelerating profitable growth but also helping to create a new generation of skilled general managers.”

Understanding the concepts of Agile Methodology to be more flexible and adaptable can also be helpful in planning your career and to help prioritize other goals in life. This is a transferable skill that one should learn to be marketable wherever they go. The same HBR article advised, “Those who learn to lead agile’s extension into a broader range of business activities will accelerate profitable growth.” This is a skill and mindset that’s worth investing in.

If you are interested in seminars to understand more about Agile, please view our current events for the next seminar, or contact us at Itinaucore@gmail.com.

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