Adaptability – when the rain starts to fall

F1 is not a spectacle I pay much attention to – unless it rains. So yesterday I was eagerly anticipating the start of the race in Singapore as light drizzle turned to more persistent rain and the track got properly wet.

The next hour turned into a masterclass on adaptability and who could adapt the most effectively.

This was the first wet race in Singapore so the drivers had never driven the cars with a full fuel load (100kgs) and wet weather tyres. Add in that Singapore is a night race and they have never raced at night in the rain, plus, as the rain falls or stops the track changes with every lap - less grip, more grip. These were situations that they had never been exposed to before. You can see the scale of the challenge. Who was going to adapt the best?

It’s a good metaphor for the modern world. While we can practice and rehearse different situations there are an increasing number of new situations that we are exposed to that we just can't predict or rehearse. What makes the difference between those who can adapt and those who struggle faced with new situations?

A good way of thinking about adaptability is as a combination of your attitude (willingness to adapt) and your capability (having the skills to actually do something different when its required). As an example, put me in the F1 car yesterday and I might have had the willingness to drive differently from my usual experience of lapping in a go kart in the dry with my mates but I definitely don’t have the skill! Equally, you could put some very capable drivers into the car, who have the driving skills but just not the attitude to adapt, preferring to stick with their original plans or just giving up all together in the face of the challenge.

Its probably no co-incidence that Ayrton Senna and Lewis Hamilton, 2 of the most successful drivers of recent times are also the most effective in wet, changeable conditions. Equally Michael Schumacher and Senna have also won races with their cars stuck in a single gear which has required a level of adaptation beyond most racing drivers. Just try driving a few miles around town in one gear!

Its worth keeping in mind that adaptability can be situational for people, in other words I can be good at adapting in some situations but not others. In a future post I will take a look at some ways to develop adaptability in sport and business.In the meantime, notice the situations where you are ablest to adapt and those that you find more challenging. Is it your attitude or skill that is holding you back in those situations?

Get notified of new posts by Twitter