As creative designers, our whole work ethic is based around problem solving. Answering client briefs and using our creativity to find solutions is where we excel. So I was quite intrigued with a question I was asked recently. “Could you survive in Shanghai?” It was quite an odd question but it was one with a purpose. As someone who makes a living from solving problems and dreaming up creative solutions, could I survive in a place where I had nothing, where I was completely vulnerable and where I couldn’t even speak the language. After all, communication is the cornerstone of my job. It’s daunting to even think about it.
It’s 2018. We live in an age where we are all connected through email, smartphones, and social media. We never have to worry where our next meal is coming from. We even do our food shopping online and get it delivered direct to our door with the minimum amount of effort. So what would happen if all this was stripped away…if you were suddenly dropped in the middle of Shanghai with nothing but the clothes on your back?
The question doesn’t just apply to designers, it’s a question that could be asked of anyone, especially those at the top of their respective fields. Did they get to where they are today because of their ability to adapt to situations like this?
The ‘ability to adapt’ is the key phrase here. It’s the key to survival. Adaptability is your ability to move in a given direction at any time, being able to adjust to new conditions, and modify your skills for a new use or purpose. This means physically, mentally, and emotionally.
I couldn’t communicate well because of the language barrier but I have the ‘ability to adapt’ and learn the language. It’s not just the language I would have to adapt to, it’s the culture, the surroundings and the people.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s something many of us are challenged by every day in our business lives. New language in the form of constantly updating computer systems and business communications, new culture in the form of an expanding workforce and their beliefs, and new surroundings in the form of an ever-changing business environment.
The ability to adapt has never been more important than it is now. Businesses and organizations that can adapt to social, environmental, cultural and economic changes will find they can scale up, diversify and innovate, meaning they stay relevant and avoid obsolescence. The ability to adapt is the defining quality that draws the line between growth and stagnation, and ultimately results in a successful outcome.
So, could you survive in Shanghai?
Photograph used kindly shared by Andrew Horne of English Wikipedia