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Map and Adapt: The Key to Leading Through Change and Disruption

Map and Adapt: The Key to Leading Through Change and Disruption

As an I/O psychologist and principal consultant here at Perceptyx, I read a lot about business, economics, and psychology. However, in my free time, I’m also an avid outdoorsman who has hiked multiple thousands of miles, including walking from Georgia to Maine on the Appalachian Trail and from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. I’m also a former licensed whitewater raft guide and am in the process of introducing my four kids to the world of climbing and backpacking. Over the past twenty years, I’ve seen how lessons from my outdoor pursuits often translate to teams and business.

Deep Survival: The Dangers of Inflexibility

After a recent tragedy in the White Mountains of New Hampshire — near my parents’ home and on a trail that I’ve hiked half a dozen times — I became aware of the book Deep Survival. As I read the book, I was surprised first by how beautifully it was written. It then struck me that it was almost entirely about mindset and psychology rather than wilderness survival techniques. One point author Laurence Gonzales makes is that when people become disoriented in the wilderness and things go from bad to worse, it is often due to people’s inflexibility regarding their view of the surroundings and their understanding of the situation. Maybe they ignore a shift in the weather, or the effects of dehydration, hypothermia, or exhaustion. Gonzales explains that when we fail to update our mental map of the world and our place in that world, we risk making poor decisions that can sometimes have disastrous consequences. The same is true with work and business.

Breaking Your Compass Because You Thought It Was Broken

The author shares a story about someone who became disoriented and smashed their compass with a rock because they thought it was broken. The compass functioned properly, but because the information it provided didn't match the person’s understanding of where “north” should be, they broke a reliable instrument. 

As we approach a new year and uncertain economic conditions, it’s a good reminder to constantly map and adapt. We need to be open to data and input that enables us to maintain an accurate mental map and understanding of the world around us. As conditions both inside and outside our organizations change, we need to update our view of the world and act accordingly. Too often we can get stuck in established patterns of thinking and miss an important opportunity.

Blind Spots and Cognitive Biases

This concept is also related to the Johari Window and the idea that as individuals and leaders, we all have blind spots. We also have cognitive biases and a natural tendency to prioritize data and information that reinforces our view of the world. When it comes to employee listening and workforce analytics, we risk rejecting valid and reliable data about our organizations because we don’t like the implications. In that case, we miss the real value of hearing and learning from our people.

SWOT Analysis Using Employee Survey Data

One analysis that can help highlight potential blind spots emerging from a misalignment of employee experiences is an executive SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) using employee survey data. To conduct the analysis, we segment the data into “Executive Leadership” and “Remainder of the Organization” categories. We then compare results and response profiles. Survey questions that are rated above average by both the executive population and the remainder of the organization are agreed-upon strengths. Survey questions that are rated below average by both groups are agreed-upon opportunities for improvement. 

The most interesting quadrants are those where we have a misalignment of responses. Questions that are rated above average by executives but below average by the remainder are potential threats or blind spots. This is because the leaders are likely leading and operating as though these are organizational strengths and positive experiences shared by all, but the remainder of the organization sees and experiences them differently. Opportunities or unrealized strengths are those survey questions that leaders rated below average, but the remainder of the organization rated above average. Again, if leaders are operating with one set of beliefs, but that perception is not in alignment with the remainder of the organization, they may not take full advantage of a resource already available within the organization.

Perceptyx Can Help Your Organization Remain Agile in the Face of Change

No matter the specific data source or method of analysis, we must remain open to adjusting our mental maps and adapting our beliefs, attitudes, and actions accordingly. If we become rigid in our perspectives to the point that we reject information that challenges our current understanding, then we limit our ability to thrive in an ever-changing landscape. The concept of “map and adapt” is as relevant in business as it is in wilderness survival.

As an experienced listening partner, Perceptyx can help your organization capture the necessary data to understand its strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement. To learn more about how we can help, schedule a meeting with a team member.

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