Is Adaptability More Important Than Talent?

Have you ever seen a contortionist in action? It’s quite amazing, and maybe just a little creepy at the same time. Do they even have a spine? Is the human body really supposed to do that?

Anyway, contortionists show an amazing amount of flexibility. Being flexible in their line of work is mandatory. But flexibility, or adaptability in today’s workplace is just as important. In fact, people who can’t roll with the punches in today’s constantly changing work environment tend to get left behind for those who can.

Being able to adapt to new things is one of the greatest abilities a person can have. Who wouldn’t appreciate an employee that can adapt to new technology, a younger workforce, a different approach to leadership, the changing economy, and the influence of emotional intelligence in the workplace, etc.? That’s the kind of employee people want to hire and keep around for the long haul.

Talent Does Matter

“But what about talent,” you ask. Isn’t talent ultimately the most important attribute you should look for in employees? Won’t that make the biggest difference after everything is said and done? Yes, there’s no question that talent matters. You couldn’t just hire a bunch of people who can easily adapt to change but have no talent.

Try hiring a bunch of circus contortionist to run your marketing company and see how that goes. So talent does matter. But you need to find talented people who can also adapt to change. Because change happens…constantly.

In fact, according to Darren Shimkus on, “The majority of what we learned 10 years ago is obsolete, and half of what we learned five years ago is irrelevant. And…more than one-third of the skills necessary to thrive in a job today are projected to change” over the next five years.

Like it or not, change is coming. And just when you get comfortable with one thing, it’s likely to change again. When people can learn new things or new ways of doing things, they become more valuable. So talent is great, but adaptability is greater.

Why Adaptability Is Valuable

So why is adaptability so important? What makes it such a valuable attribute? Being adaptable means being able to change one’s thoughts, ideas, and actions to better suit a new environment. And that ability is invaluable. According to Chitra Teddy on, “an adaptable person is someone who can carry out multiple tasks, manage multiple assignments by setting priorities and making changes to attitude to merge with the new culture.”

The workplace is changing. In fact, in the time you’ve been reading this article, 50 new trends just hit the working world. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but honestly, change is constant.

Ten to 15 years ago, companies were still hiring people to do single jobs, for the most part. But fast-forward to today, and things have changed. Now it’s totally normal for employers to hire people to fulfill multiple roles. Take copywriters for example.

10 years ago, copywriters wrote copy. That’s what they were hired to do and that’s what they did. Hence the job title. But now it’s completely normal for a copywriter to be expected to know how to do SEO, marketing content, and social media, all at the same time.

And employers are taking notice. Why would they hire someone who can fill only one role, when they can get someone else who can take care of all four roles at the same time, for the same amount of money?

Adaptability Is More Important

That’s why adaptability is now more important than ever in the workplace. And that’s why it’s even more important than talent. A talented person, who refuses to learn new things, or look at things in a different way, won’t be of much help to his or her company.

On the other hand, someone who is adaptable to different situations is not rigid. Adaptable people are open to new ideas, including the latest trends. They adjust to new situations and don’t resist change. They solve problems better because they’re willing to look at all the possible outcomes and solutions. Adaptable people are open to negotiation because they know how to communicate, listen, and show empathy.

So, if you had to choose between two candidates and one had amazing talent but not much flexibility, while the other had average talent but was extremely adaptable, you’d be better off going with the average talent candidate. Wouldn’t you agree?

In the long run, his or her ability to adapt to change would prove more valuable than the extremely talented person that could never see beyond his or her own way of doing things. Still not convinced? Here are more reasons that adaptability is more important than talent. Adaptable people:

  • Fit into different work cultures better
  • Are willing to leave their comfort zone
  • Are more productive
  • Are more valued by their employers and co-workers
  • See challenges as opportunities
  • Focus on solutions instead of problems
  • Are happier because they accept change

How to Become More Adaptable

Not everyone is born with the ability to adapt. But the good news is, anyone can learn to be more adaptable. And the rewards are worth the effort. So how can you become more adaptable? Here are some tips that will make a difference.

  • Use critical thinking to understand the situation better
  • Try new things and put yourself in different situations
  • Listen more and talk less
  • Consider other people’s perspectives
  • Take a look at the bigger picture
  • Develop more emotional intelligence
  • Seek balance in your life

Shirley Tan points out on that by becoming more adaptable you stand to help yourself in many significant ways. For example, you’ll become more valuable to your employer. You’ll become a better leader. You’ll find more satisfaction and happiness at work and in life in general. You’ll be able to handle career changes more smoothly and you’ll overcome work challenges more quickly and easily.


As Forest Gump said,

“Life is like a box of chocolate. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

That might be a line from Hollywood, but it’s still very true. And being able to adapt to the constant changes one will face in both work and in life, is an invaluable ability.

No one will fault you for seeking talented people to add to your organization. It’s a no-brainer. But seeking people who can adapt to all the possibilities is even smarter. And for the worker that wants to be more attractive to employers, start by learning to be more adaptable.

You could focus on developing a new skill, trying something you’ve never done before, or even eating something you’ve never had before. Just think outside the box and let go of your comfort zone. Heck, you could even sign up for a contortionist class.