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What does a climate change of 200,000 years ago have to do with managing your business today? Plenty, as it turns out. Early Homo sapiens was quick and clever, unlike his slow and clumsy predecessors. When rapid climate change created drought and famine, it was our adept, nimble ancestors who survived. They didn’t sit around waiting for things to get better. They traveled to new water sources, they discovered new foods, they made better tools, and they adapted to the new climate. They not only survived, they thrived.

Obviously, the take-away is that nimbleness and adaptability are great survival strategies. It’s true for businesses just as it was for our ancestors.

Management consultant Daryl Connor states, “A nimble organization [is] one that has a sustained ability to quickly and effectively respond to the demands of change while continually delivering high performance.” He goes on to say, “nimble organizations consistently succeed in unpredictable, competitive environments by quickly and effectively modifying their operations when necessary.”

When Connor talks about “modifying their operations,” what he’s really talking about is adaptability. Nimbleness is about changing quickly, and adaptability is about the form the quick change will take.

Adaptability and nimbleness go hand-in-hand. Each supports the other. Dr. Elspeth Murray of Queen’s School of Business in Ontario writes, “Businesses don’t fail to adapt because they don’t see change, but because they lack the ability to make key decisions in a timely fashion.” Without nimble speed, the ability to change becomes moot. Without adaptability, nimbleness can quickly lead you down a blind alley without the ability to turn around.

Adaptability and nimbleness were winning numbers in the evolutionary lottery, and they’re winning principles in business today. Building them into your business can be as complex as ramping up R&D for a new market, or as simple as installing adaptive furnishings in your facility. This latter strategy is something we’re well acquainted with, as this video demonstrates: “Swiftspace Innovates for Healthcare.”

On the nimbleness scale, adaptive furnishings rate high. Rapid set-up with minimal resources – staff or tools – is the hallmark of well-designed adaptive furnishings; speed is the essence of nimbleness.

On the adaptability scale, reconfigurability is key. Adaptive furnishings are highly reconfigurable. Anything that can take on a variety of forms in a variety of circumstances is indeed highly adaptable, and therefore a valuable asset in surviving and thriving in times of change.

Just like living things, businesses are constantly evolving. Adapting to changing circumstances, and doing it quickly, is what made our ancestral humans successful. It’s what makes your business successful too.


Photo © Rob Hyrons/