How adaptability can boost your career

People with high AQ are more likely to work collaboratively and deliver creative solutions. | Freepik

People with high AQ are more likely to work collaboratively and deliver creative solutions. | Freepik

Published Feb 5, 2024



IN the volatile and uncertain economic landscape that has come to characterise the past few years, a new kind of intelligence has emerged as one that sets apart those who adapt and grow in their careers – Adaptability Quotient, or AQ for short.

In the past, Intelligence Quotient (IQ) was considered a major differentiating factor in the workplace; while for the past decade or so, Emotional Quotient (EQ) has become more prominent.

Broadly speaking, IQ signifies mental potential and efficiency, such as the ability to understand things. EQ is defined as the ability to understand and manage emotions, and deal with emotional issues in one's life effectively and positively.

Given developments of the past decade and in particular the past four years, AQ has now become a key part of the mix.

Within the workplace, we are faced with continuous change – whether it is due to macro or micro-environmental factors. Add that to all the changes requiring adaptation at home, in the community, within relationships and in the way we perceive things, and it becomes clear that we need to start developing responses that are more adaptable so that we can pivot quickly and with resilience - and lead the way within the change to stay on top of things.

In today’s uncertain environment, the concept of AQ, which is a measure of an individual's ability to adapt to new and changing situations, is becoming one of the foremost determinants of success.

AQ, which incorporates IQ and EQ, is also becoming increasingly relevant in the world of work. This is because individuals with a high AQ can manage challenges and changes well. And with their neutral approach to understanding various situations, they can also solve problems quickly and efficiently by providing effective solutions and outcomes.

Here are some reasons why AQ is important in the workplace:


People with high AQ are generally more flexible and adaptable, allowing them to quickly learn new skills and adjust to changing requirements and responsibilities. This is essential in industries that are constantly evolving, like most are today.


People with high AQ are generally more open to a range of perspectives, and are more likely to work collaboratively to come up with creative solutions to problems. 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.


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 environment.


AQ is also relevant for leaders in the workplace. Self-awareness and an understanding of your behaviour assist in the self-confidence required to lead change within the workplace. Leaders with a high AQ can anticipate, look at various probabilities, and adapt to changes in their industry - and inspire their teams to do the same. This can help organisations stay ahead of the curve and maintain a competitive edge.

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 innovate, adapt to changing circumstances in a meaningful and positive way, and maintain a positive and productive work environment.

It is therefore incumbent on 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.

* Van Wyk is head of programme in the Finance and Accounting Faculty of The Independent Institute of Education