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4 Ways to Stay Ahead of the Change Curve

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There’s a paradigm shift taking place in business today. The age-old hierarchical model of corporate structure no longer reigns supreme. Instead, the fast pace of technology (and therefore change) gives rise to flatter business models than can pivot from one strategy to another with minimal loss of value. Subject matter experts quickly fall into obsolescence the second a competitor “pivots” and introduces a new product that requires new subject matter to be learned.

To meet the challenge imposed by evolving technologies today, organizations need to embrace change. To do that, there are two ways to go about it: set the right environment that facilitates change, or hire the right people who are always willing to change.

Related: NFL Veteran-Turned-Entrepreneur Says Adaptability Is Key to a Winning Game Plan

No matter which way you look at it, what businesses need are adaptable employees.

To be adaptive is to forego the old and embrace the new, to learn and unlearn that which is no longer relevant and to do so faster than the competitor -- whether it’s another job applicant, manufacturer or company. Here are four ways to stay ahead of the change curve and adapt -- before your competition does:

1. Think fluently.

Flexible thinking, according to Michael Michalko, author of ThinkerToys (the bible on expansive thinking), is the number of ideas you produce. Just as pumping iron in the gym stimulates your beach muscles (or lack thereof), pushing yourself cognitively increases your mental capacity so you can generate more genius. The more ideas you have to choose from the more context you build, and the greater your adaptive capacity.

2. Think flexibly.

This is your creativity, the number of spinoffs you can create from idea A. In Michalko’s words, flexible thinking refers to your “ability to see beyond the ordinary and conventional roles” and improvise a fit where fit doesn’t currently exist.

Related: 5 Visionary CEOs and Their Key Traits That Every Leader Should Master

3. Think new.

Volunteer yourself for a new role or responsibility. The more experience you have across a broad range of topics, the greater context you build for yourself. Context is what we rely upon for intuition. When there’s an unexpected change in an expected pattern, that’s when your gut speaks up and says, “Hey, wait a minute!”

4. Check yourself.

The ability to change entails two things: your skillfulness in adjusting to new situations and the will to do so. You may be a masterful change agent but if there’s nothing driving your why then the passion to change will soon wither away -- discipline only lasts so long. So, if you’re unsure about where you fall on the adaptability scale, start with yourself.

In other words, how self-aware of you of what positively or negatively triggers your skill and willfulness to adapt? If you’re unsure, listen to what that little voice in your head (the good one) tells you when new situations arise. Specifically, does it tell you to fight, flee or freeze? More important, why do you listen to it?

Whether it’s personal or organizational adaptability, one thing is for certain: change is going nowhere. The sooner you learn how to embrace newness and adapt to the environment, the greater edge you have on your competitor.

Related: The Trait Entrepreneurs Share With a 100-Million-Year-Old Species