Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist


How your Adaptability Quotient can boost your career

If you already have the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and the Emotional Quotient (EQ), why do you need Adaptability Quotient (AQ) as well?


You can use your Adaptability Quotient to boost your career in a changing world of work where the volatile and uncertain economic landscape requires employees to stand out if they want to adapt and grow in their careers.

“In the past, Intelligence Quotient (IQ) was considered a major differentiating factor and for the past decade or so, Emotional Quotient (EQ). Given the developments of the past decade and in particular the past four years, Adaptability Quotient (AQ) has now become a key part of the mix,” says education expert Talita van Wyk, head of programme in the faculty of finance and accounting at The Independent Institute of Education.

“We are faced with continuous change in the workplace, whether due to macro- or micro-environmental factors. Add that to all the changes requiring adaptation at home, in the community, within relationships and the way we perceive things and it becomes important to develop responses that become more adaptable, pivot quickly and with resilience and lead the way within the change to stay on top of things.”

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Van Wyk says the concepts of IQ, which signify mental potential and efficiency, such as the ability to understand things and EQ, which is the ability to understand and manage emotions positively and deal with emotional issues in one’s life effectively and positively, are not new concepts.

“However, in today’s uncertain environment, the concept of Adaptability Quotient, which is a measure of an individual’s ability to adapt to new and changing situations is less familiar but becoming one of the foremost determinants of success.” 

AQ, which incorporates IQ and EQ, has become increasingly relevant, because individuals with a high AQ can manage challenges and changes and solve problems quickly and effectively in the workplace with their neutral approach to understanding various situations and providing effective solutions and outcomes, she says. 

Reasons why AQ is important in the workplace:

  • Flexibility: People with high AQ are generally more flexible and adaptable, allowing them to quickly learn new skills and adjust to changing requirements and responsibilities, which is essential in industries that are constantly evolving, like most industries today are.
  • Innovation and collaboration: People with high AQ are more likely to come up with creative solutions to problems and work collaboratively, as well as being more open to a range of perspectives. This can lead to new ideas, products and services that can drive growth and competitive advantage for their organisations. Collaboration creates constructive discussions for learning and growth towards a thriving work environment.
  • Resilience: AQ determines an individual’s ability to recover from setbacks and failures. Employees with high AQ are better equipped to bounce back from setbacks and maintain a positive attitude, which is important in maintaining productivity and morale in the workplace, particularly given the current economic environment.
  • Leadership: AQ is also very relevant for leaders in the workplace. Self-awareness, understanding and knowing oneself well assist in the self-confidence required to lead change in the workplace. Leaders with a high AQ can anticipate, look at various probabilities and adapt to changes in their industry, while and inspiring their teams to do the same. This can help organisations stay ahead of the curve and maintain a competitive edge.

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Developing AQ

“AQ is highly relevant in the workplace of today and will continue to be so in future, as it includes key skills that help employees and leaders adapt to changing circumstances in a meaningful and positive way, innovate and maintain a positive and productive work environment.”

Van Wyk says it is therefore important for institutions of higher learning to ensure this vital skill is developed in students, while organisations and leaders who prioritise AQ can create a culture of resilience and innovation that can help them stay ahead of the competition and thrive within their industry.

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