Adaptive vs. Technical Challenges

Adaptive challenges can only be addressed through changes in priorities, beliefs, habits, & loyalties

Photo of Charles Shryock, IV
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"The most common cause of failure in leadership is produced by treating adaptive challenges as if they were technical problems. What’s the difference? While technical problems may be very complex and critically important (like replacing a faulty heart valve during cardiac surgery), they have known solutions that can be implemented by current know-how. They can be resolved through the application of authoritative expertise and through the organization’s current structures, procedures, and ways of doing things. Adaptive challenges can only be addressed through changes in people’s priorities, beliefs, habits, and loyalties. Making progress requires going beyond any authoritative expertise to mobilize discovery, shedding certain entrenched ways, tolerating losses, and generating the new capacity to thrive anew." (p. 7-8)

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Source:  Grashow, Alexander, Heifetz, Ronald, and Linsky, Marty. The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing your Organization and the World. Harvard Business Press, Boston, Mass., 2009.

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Photo of Chris Good

Reminds me of the differences between incremental and disruptive innovations.
Curious, how might you convince someone that something is an adaptive challenge if they were otherwise unconvinced - and continuously approached the challenge from a technical perspective?