Canada is a country of great wealth, whether measured in terms of our ample natural resources, our outstanding agricultural good fortune or our abundant maritime gifts. We who live here have been granted easy fortune in a world where many are far less privileged and less well endowed than we are. In the old economy, Canada’s physical assets were a source of unique economic value creation and placed us in demand as an exporter of products sought by others to feed their people and fuel their own economies. Canada was a good partner with whom to trade. We were reasonable, respected and fair. We had no natural enemies or historical foes and, as a result, we were regularly called upon to be a peacekeeper in situations where others were not so welcome or trusted.
It seems as though dangerous, pivotal moments of transformational change have been presenting themselves with increasing frequency in recent years. The more interconnected global economy, rapid technological advances and constantly evolving social, political and demographic changes have all come together to alter the once reliable maps we used to guide us in the post-WWII period. The question that should concern and even haunt us all is why, in the face of these changes, so many leaders, organizations and nations have not been brave enough, vigilant enough or just plain smart enough to switch tack from what may have been right and relevant in one set of circumstances to a new course, better suited to the changing conditions of the future.
Throughout history, the truly great leaders have known when and how to adapt or pivot when the situation and the context change. They seem to have a sixth sense and know exactly the right moment at which to abandon what is no longer working and comfortably embrace new tools more suited to the conditions they find themselves in. It is part experience, part intuition and part luck, but successfully identifying and then navigating these crucial inflection points is the responsibility of leaders. The average leader can perhaps do a respectable enough job when conditions are normal, but it takes an exceptional leader to navigate confidently in uncertain, uncharted and turbulent waters.
Adaptation is the basis for all forms of human survival. It is the willingness, ability and confidence to adjust to circumstances as they change, and to allow other tools and senses to guide us when conditions shift and our existing repertoire is no longer sufficient or relevant. So it is in business. When conditions change, we need to alter the methods, mindsets attitudes and behaviours we use in order to make better sense of the environment around us. We must then adjust our course or risk sailing straight onto the rocky reef hidden by the thick wall of fog which surrounds business today.