Why AQ is the new competitive advantage

For years, the common belief was that people with high intelligence quotient (IQ) or emotional quotient (EQ) were more successful. However, in today’s new world, the growth catalyst is AQ.

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It is no longer ‘survival of the fittest’ but ‘survival of the quickest’ which is the big differentiator in the post-COVID era. This implies, both people and businesses will have to adapt faster to the changes – the one who is swift enough will progress rapidly.

Let us take the example of Tunisian taxi startup, IntiGo, which temporarily transformed into a delivery service overnight because passengers were low during the lockdown.

We can say that Intigo’s adaptability quotient (AQ) is high.

Adaptability quotient or AQ is the ability to adapt and thrive in a fast-changing environment — such as a world that has turned upside down post COVID. The world of work has undergone extraordinary change during the pandemic. No doubt, teams that can embrace new ways of working and leverage technology will thrive.

Be it companies or individuals, AQ is what will help everyone survive these unprecedented times. For years, the common belief has been that people with high intelligence quotient (IQ) or emotional quotient (EQ) are more likely to be successful. However, in today’s new world, the growth catalyst is AQ.

It is commendable how the mobile companies quickly shifted to setting up their own hyperlocal e-commerce channels, such as MiCommerce and Vivo Smart Retail, to ensure that the products were delivered to the doorsteps of the consumers. Customers could express their purchase interest either via SMS, whatsapp or Facebook not only to see the inventory of the shops closest to their location, but also to make purchases from retailers around them.

Companies that have acted fast in terms of responding to consumer needs and the changing business environment, have been able to ride the pandemic wave. It is interesting how so many Indian companies across sectors have been quick to move to making PPE kits and manufacturing sanitisers in order to ride the lockdown wave, when other channels of business were completely shut. But soon, every second company started doing it, so the novelty factor was lost. Therefore, we all have to adapt to new changes every now and then in the fast-changing business environment.

Swiftness

There were also some sectors, which probably did not move drastically from their core line of business, but brought in some quick radical changes in their existing business model to ensure that they kept floating. The smartphone companies are a classic example of how business can capitalise change.

The lockdown, for instance, translated into sudden increase in data consumption – partly due to online classes and partly due to the increasing usage of OTT platforms, such as Netflix, Hotstar, Amazon Prime and so on. The increase in data also meant an increase in demand for smartphones.

Now, while there was an increasing demand for products, the mobile companies were facing challenges in meeting those demands due to the lockdown. It is commendable how the mobile companies quickly shifted to setting up their own hyperlocal e-commerce channels, such as MiCommerce and Vivo Smart Retail, to ensure that the products were delivered to the doorsteps of the consumers. Customers could express their purchase interest either via SMS, whatsapp or Facebook not only to see the inventory of the shops closest to their location, but also to make purchases from retailers around them.

Similarly, Samsung collaborated with Facebook to enable offline retailers to go digital. It trained its retailers to adapt to the online ecosystem and help them reach out to a wide range of customers.

Scores of  businesses have woken up to the challenge by redesigning, transforming and diversifying their products or service offering to cater to new consumer demands. China Minsheng Bank, for instance, invested heavily in automating its loan-application process, leading to a supply chain product with online application review, verification, online lending and automated approval. This reduced the approval process time to 30 minutes, making it an attractive offering for businesses.

The former US Secretary of Defense General James Mattis calls this ‘operating at the speed of relevance’.

This means, understanding which information is relevant, encouraging simpler approval chains, and scrambling to put the best talent against critical challenges.

Openness

While AQ is not stagnating, it can certainly be continuously improved with ‘openness’— openness of mind, heart and will

An open mind will allow one to see and observe the changes. This openness will enable people to foresee the new possibilities in unanticipated change.

Next, people should have an open heart, which will accept and adapt to new changes willingly. Openness of heart will also make way for collaboration, and that’s how acceptability seeps in quietly. It will help get rid of preconceived notions about oneself, which is mostly negative.

‘Open will’ implies letting go of ego and embracing the new change, even if it appears to be uncomfortable at the time. Quite often, change, be it any kind, is resisted at first because we consider it an irritant. We are scared to come out of our comfort zones. We need to get rid of this fear.

What people and organisations need to do is ride the change wave. If we go against the wave, we are likely to drown or fall.

Human beings are quite adaptive by nature. A few months back, if people had been told that the world would shut down all of a sudden and that they would all be locked up in their houses for months, they would have probably laughed it off in disbelief. The immediate reaction would have been that nobody would survive such a scenario. However, the truth is that such a lockdown did happen, and people learnt to live with. It was possible because of their adaptability quotient. The only difference is that people with high AQ were calmer through it all, more resilient and exhibited adaptable and empathetic leadership qualities.