What does it really mean to go beyond a technical approach in business? I’m going to begin to answer that for you in this article! I love this subject because I get to delve into my nerdy side. I wrote about both the technical and adaptive approach in a section of my Women at Halftime book and frequently approach it in my live presentations. I will first define a technical approach. (You thought I’d never get there, did you?)
A technical approach, when it refers to music, is the learning of technique. Since I really know piano, I will use it here. Technique includes the scales, chords, arpeggios, inversions, and exercises by Hanon, Dohnanyi, Czerny and even the Bach Prelude and Fugues. All of these create a great technical base. They are the basics every serious, and even not-so-serious pianist should have, even if the repertoire is slightly different. Many classical pianists—even very fine pianists—stay within a more technical approach and some have difficulty going beyond what is written on the page.
What goes beyond the technical approach is the adaptive approach. The adaptive application is the improvisation or the adaption of the technical to create something totally different, going beyond the written notes. It’s the ability to play a melody a number of different ways with different styles and keys. The adaptive approach is what musicians who have improvisational skills are applying, such as jazz musicians.
Now let’s apply an adaptive approach to other areas besides music. A good medical doctor doesn’t only recite symptoms and cures with a technical approach, (that they) read from a book. He or she reflects for a moment on diagnosis and their application of much of the knowledge, research and analysis and then measures in their mind how to best communicate their technical understanding. We often call this bedside manner, but it is really an adaptive application. Further, an Olympic performer has to have the technical approach down solid (even judged on it!) to expand on those skills to create a routine worthy of an Olympic medal. One of my favorite Olympic events is ice skating. Competitors are judged on not only the technical routines but their adaptive approach that communicates emotion, feeling and artistry with the addition of music and dance. Successful businesses succeed at both the technical production aspects AND the art of encouraging people and communicating ideas.
An adaptive approach is also the reason artificial intelligence is not going to totally take over the world! You may wonder how this approach applies to A.I. so let’s go there. Our world desperately needs those with experience, application of skills and the ability to think creatively and understand issues from several viewpoints. This is especially relevant for those at the mid-point of their life! (read: How Do You Know You’re at Halftime?) Case in point: my recent call with my web hosting service. Their rates had literally doubled this last year and I was questioning them on why there was such a jump, secretly hoping to get a substantial discount!
The chat response I got was pretty standard…they had added features I didn’t understand and their costs had increased for an aspect I needed for my membership site called the C-Panel. (Was this because they had to hire more people? I couldn’t understand why they had increased costs for something already in place) As my virtual responder chatted on, it was sounding more and more like a sales pitch (I hate being sold to!) and then the next comment really got me. If I didn’t renew now, I’d lose all my hosting and there would be no access to my websites! Were they threatening to drop me on a chat? There was no attempt to understand my personal pain, no asking me how I felt their service was and no inquiry if there was more I needed. In other words, no true customer service as far as I was concerned!
I almost felt like hanging up and moving on to another provider because of this chat conversation! I know I’m not alone in those feelings. I ended up staying with the provider because I’ve been happy with their main service this past year, but their interaction with me was less than admirable. This less than admirable principle also applies with leadership. Even with a brilliant boss who knows business and market scaling, how many employees feel like quitting because he or she is horrible with management and team building? Those employees may feel like I felt—like quitting then and there! I have seen teams unravel, losing valuable human resources that could have been saved with better management.
Small Changes for Large Results
An adaptive application of a technical habit brings a feeling of inclusion and involvement that has the power to bring true change and transformation. Consistently scheduling a five-minute conversation where an employee can talk and communicate can transform a team and even an office dynamic. The good feeling and atmosphere it creates is the adaptive application. As an additional illustration, we can study the rules of multiple diets, understanding timing and science behind many of the programs. But true transformation takes place once we can feel the difference that losing pounds and eating a healthy diet brings. One small technical change (such as exchanging raw vegetables for chips and salsa) can make a huge difference in an outcome. There is the greater possibility of true change as our body experiences additional energy and we fit in the clothes we want to wear after applying a different pattern of lifestyle eating. I like that principle!
I am not discounting the value of a technical approach in the very least. In fact, I encourage it and have incorporated a great deal of technique in all my training for a number of years. But as we switch to performance (in music) or management (in business), I immediately start applying an adaptive approach to technical habits.
Three Steps Connecting the Technical to Adaptive for True Change:
ONE: Name One New Outcome. (make this a small step) This can be to lose five pounds, take an online course, etcetera.
TWO: Identify One New Technique or Habit. This can be something you are doing presently or something totally new that you will add in your routine. For instance, adding five minutes on the elliptical at the gym or scheduling 20 minutes three times a week to work on your online course.
THREE: Create a Picture of Desired Outcome or Feeling. For instance, post the picture of the outfit you’ll wear when losing the five pounds and imaging how good you’ll feel! (for me, this is a pencil skirt!) Or imagine the freedom and feeling of accomplishment you’ll have when completing your online course or the momentum you’ll create by creating an atmosphere of listening among your team.
When a technical habit is applied, the next step is freeing up the mind to create something further with imagination and a positive outcome. This is how improvisation takes place in music as well. The musical technique is solid and now there is freedom to adapt that technique. It is also how creating a small new ritual or habit can bring incremental change to an outcome. I’m reading this great new book by James Clear. If you’ve not read it yet, pick up—it’s so worth the read! Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones Here is to your success in connecting your technical skills to an adaptive outcome for a wonderful future!