By Brittany Ryzenga

I recently listened to an insightful TedTalk podcast by venture investor Natalie Fratto titled, “Three Ways to Measure your Adaptability—and How to Improve it.”  When Fratto is determining which start-up founder to support, she doesn’t look for key qualities most might assume, for example, intelligence or personality; she looks for adaptability

Adaptability, or how well a person reacts to the inevitability of change, is the single most important quality that Fratto looks for.  She goes on to give us three ways to measure our own adaptability quotient (“AQ”) and explains why your adaptability to respond really matters.
“I sincerely believe that adaptability itself is a form of intelligence and our AQ is something that can be measured, tested and improved,” says Fratto.

Fratto further explains that “the rate of technological change is accelerating, which is forcing our brains to react… whether you’re navigating changing job conditions brought on by automation or simply changing family dynamics in personal relationships” due to technological changes, ones’ level of adaptability is going to significantly impact the outcome. She says, “we’re entering a future where IQ and EQ (emotional quotient) both matter way less than how fast you’re able to adapt.” 

More than ever, during the midst of a global pandemic (Covid-19), each of us as individuals, groups, corporations and governments are being forced to adapt to change and both understanding and improving our adaptability is crucial.

So how can we assess and improve our personal “AQ”?  Fratto provides us with three methods:
1.Asking “What if?” Questions
Fratto further explains this method with the analogy of sitting in a job interview.  The most common questions typically begin with, “tell me about a time when…”  But instead, she likes to ask “what if” questions like “what if your main revenue stream were to dry up overnight?”  Fratto defends this thought-process explaining, “asking what-if instead of asking about the past, forces the brain to stimulate and picture multiple possible solutions to the future” and that ”testing future scenarios is a safe testing ground for improving adaptability.  Instead of testing how you take in and retain information, like an IQ test might, it tests how you manipulate information, given a constraint in order to achieve a specific goal.”
2. Actively Unlearning  
This method is pretty self-explanatory but is an essential trait for someone with a high “AQ.”  Fratto defines active learners as someone who seeks to challenge what they already know and instead override that data with new information (think a computer running a disc cleanup).   
3. Prioritizing Exploration over Exploitation
Fratto exemplifies this method by recalling a thought-provoking scenario.  In 2000 a man finagled his way into a meeting with John Antioco, CEO of Blockbuster Video and proposed a partnership to manage Blockbusters’ online business (or lack thereof).  Antioco laughed him out of the room, claiming no need  while defending their mass success with retail stores. Well, the other man was Reed Hastings, Co-Founder and CEO of Netflix whose value continues to sky-rocket while Blockbuster filed bankruptcy in 2010 (10 years after that meeting).  Fratto went on to explain that the Blockbuster CEO was “too focused on exploiting his already successful business model so much so that he couldn’t see around the NEXT corner and that way, his previous success became the ENEMY of his adaptability.”  She further advises, “never fall too in love with your wins but rather, continue to proactively seek out what might kill you next.”

I found Natalie Fratto’s insightful perspective valuable (especially during the ever-changing times we’re in). What’s most exciting is that our adaptability quotient or “AQ” can be improved but Fratto explains that it has to be exercised overtime.  Asking what-if questions, actively unlearning and prioritizing exploration over exploitation can put you in control so that the next time big changes happen you’re prepared. 

View Natalie Fratto’s TedTalk here.