How to Measure (And Boost) Your Adaptability Quotient


April 9, 2024

Some people seem to just glide through changes and challenges like they’re surfing a wave. That’s adaptability in action. It’s not just a trait, but a skill you can grow and measure: your Adaptability Quotient, or AQ for short. 

Whether you’re leading an organization or part of the crew, it’s important to understand why AQ is a non-negotiable skill and figure out how to give your own AQ a boost. 

Think of it as your personal toolkit for navigating change, whether it’s in your career, personal life, or the unexpected twists and turns that life throws your way.

Quick Takeaways

  • Adaptability Quotient is a practical skill that shapes how you navigate both big and small changes in life.
  • Boosting your AQ isn’t just about coping with change; it’s about seizing it as an opportunity to grow and learn.
  • Welcoming change, staying curious, building resilience, and flexing your thinking are key steps to ramp up your AQ.
  • Leaders, innovators, and teams with high AQ turn challenges into victories.

What’s an Adaptability Quotient?

illustration shows how boosting AQ allows people to adapt to change

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Back in 2010, Stuart Parkin came up with the idea of the Adaptability Quotient, a new way to see how people adjust and do well in their jobs. Since then, this idea has gotten a lot of attention and has become an important way to understand how we handle changes and succeed at work.

In simple words, AQ is how you stack up when life throws a curveball, big or small. It’s about your ability to learn new things, solve problems, and bounce back from setbacks. Here’s a rundown:

  • Measuring change: AQ checks how well you adapt to new situations and challenges.
  • Learning and problem-solving: It’s about your ability to pick up new skills and figure things out.
  • Resilience: AQ shows how well you can get back on your feet after an unexpected challenge.

Our world is in a constant state of flux. Technologies change, job markets shift, and global events turn ways of living and working upside down. To not just survive but thrive in these times, you need a high AQ.

The best part is that unlike some traits that you’re born with, you can improve your AQ. It’s a skill. And like any skill, with the right approach and practice, you can get better at it.

Measuring your AQ: More art than science

image shows hands with notebook that shows how people can assess their own adaptability quotient

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Figuring out your AQ isn’t like solving a math problem. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. It’s more about getting a feel for how you handle change than ticking boxes on a test. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Self-reflection: Start by looking at how you’ve handled past changes. Did you dive right in, or did you need a moment to adjust? How did you feel, and what did you learn?
  • Feedback from others: Sometimes, people around you can see things you might miss. Ask colleagues, friends, or family how they’ve seen you deal with new situations.
  • Formal assessments: There are tools and tests out there that can give you a more structured look at your AQ. They’re not the final word, but they can offer valuable insights.

Measuring your AQ isn’t about getting a perfect score. It’s about understanding where you’re at and figuring out how you can grow. Being able to adapt is key, and knowing your AQ is the first step in that journey.

Boosting your AQ: Get practical

McKinsey & Company hit the nail on the head when they said adaptability is like a super skill. You have to learn in a way that’s flexible and smart, and then use what you’ve learned in all sorts of different situations. 

They also find that companies that really focus on being adaptable often do better financially. It’s not just a feel-good skill – adaptability has some serious perks in the business world too.

Giving your Adaptability Quotient a boost is about putting what you know into action. Here’s how you can start boosting your AQ today:

1. Welcome change

Start by seeing change as a chance for growth. When something new pops up, instead of digging your heels in, ask yourself what you can learn from it. This way of thinking turns change into something exciting. It’s all about spotting the good in every situation and making it work for you.

2. Stay curious

Curiosity is at the core of being adaptable. Keep firing off questions, diving into new ideas, and chasing down fresh experiences. Maybe it’s diving into topics you’ve never thought about before, joining workshops, or just getting really curious about everything around you. Curiosity is what sparks new ways of thinking and helps you roll with the punches.

3. Build resilience

Think of resilience as your power to keep going when things get tough. When you hit a snag, dust yourself off and keep moving. Every time something doesn’t go as planned, it’s not a disaster; it’s a lesson. Resilience is about trying new things, learning from what didn’t work, and not being afraid to fail.

4. Flex your thinking

Being flexible in your thinking means welcoming new ideas and different ways of doing things. Question the way you’ve always seen things and be ready to switch up your game plan with fresh info. 

Why not try brainstorming sessions where every idea is welcome? Or think about how people with different life stories might tackle a problem? Being open like this can lead to new, great, reliable ideas and make it easier for you to adapt when things change.

AQ in the real world

Research shows that if you’re quick to adapt, you have a much better shot at landing a job. That’s a clear sign that adaptability isn’t just a nice-to-have. It’s what’s valued.

Here’s how AQ makes a real difference:


Leaders with a high AQ steer the ship through stormy seas with a clear head and a steady hand. A Harvard Business School survey found that 71% of executives from over 90 countries said adaptability was the most important quality in a leader. 

graphic shows statistic that says 71% of executives from over 90 countries said adaptability was the most important quality in a leader

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That’s a huge proportion of execs who value adaptability and recognize how important AQ is as they navigate constant change in whatever industry they’re in. 


Here’s where AQ really shines. When you’re adaptable, you’re not just stuck in the ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ rut. You’re experimenting, trying new things, and reflecting as a team on what worked and what you’ll try differently next time. 

Team dynamics

Teams with high AQ are well-oiled machines. They’re quick to adjust and collaborate, and aren’t thrown off by whatever unexpected change comes around the corner. They’re the teams that don’t just hit the mark, but thrive in changing environments.

Adaptability Quotient in action: Turning change into opportunity

Adaptability isn’t about being perfect or having all the answers. It’s about being open to learning, having a willingness to try new things, and not being afraid of a few stumbles along the way. In the end, it’s your AQ that’ll help you navigate through life’s twists and turns, keeping you relevant, resilient, and ready for whatever comes next.

Ready to turn change into opportunity? Email me and let’s talk about how to put your Adaptability Quotient in action.

About Carla

Carla Johnson Innovation Creativity Speaker Author

Carla Johnson helps leaders who are often paralyzed by traditional thinking. They suffer from slow growth, an eroding competitive advantage, low employee engagement, and depleted investor confidence. Their teams lack purpose and progress and constantly battle a resistance to change and new ideas.

As the world’s leading innovation architect, Carla’s spent 20 years helping leaders shatter limits and discover undiscovered possibilities. Through years of research, she’s developed a simple, scalable 5-step process that teaches people how to consistently produce inspired ideas that lead to uncommon outcomes.