Adaptability Summary By Max McKeown

*This post contains affiliate links, and we may earn an affiliate commission without it ever affecting the price you pay.

Adaptability is a must-read book for anyone looking to become a successful innovator in today's increasingly fast-paced and unpredictable business environment.

Through captivating case studies, this book explores what it takes to thrive and survive in the modern economic landscape.

It also dives into the techniques and strategies necessary to adapt in many different contexts, from the golf course to the battlefield and the boardroom.

From illuminating portraits of successful entrepreneurs to inspiring stories of those who've overcome adversity, Adaptability provides readers with invaluable insights into the world of entrepreneurial innovation.


Book Name: Adaptability (The Art of Winning in an Age of Uncertainty)

Author(s): Max McKeown

Rating: 4.5/5

Reading Time: 21 Minutes

Categories: Career & Success

Author Bio

Max McKeown is an internationally renowned consultant who has worked with some of the world's leading companies such as Microsoft, Virgin, Sony and Vodafone, helping them to optimise their strategic planning.

His knowledge isn't just limited to helping businesses either - he is often seen on the lecture circuit giving talks on topics such as innovation, engagement and securing a competitive advantage.

He has also authored two books in the past: The Truth About Innovation (2008) and The Strategy Bank (2012).

With his new book Adaptability, McKeown continues to share his wisdom on how best to stay competitive in today’s ever-changing business climate.

What It Takes to Survive in an Era of Constant Change: An Exploration of the Power of Adaptability

Power of Adaptability

Adaptability is becoming more and more important in the world of business, and Max McKeown knows a lot about it through his work with clients like Microsoft and Sony, who’ve managed to learn how to stay ahead of the game.

This skill isn’t just useful for big companies either – small villages have adapted their way out of economic crises and large corporations have changed course when necessary.

It’s fascinating to see how adaptability has played a role in many different places throughout history.

For example, Allied defense departments fighting Nazi Germany during World War II showed impressive levels of adaptability to come out on top.

Meanwhile, the creators of the classic Mini cooper were able to keep up with changing markets and maintain sales until this day.

Starbucks was able to use its adaptability to expand into almost every country worldwide.

Even when mistakes are made in terms of over-pushing yourself for adaptability, there’s lessons to be learned from them — such as Netflix’s nearly disastrous attempt at pushing too hard for change too quickly.

Other cases including Ford’s refusal of government bailout proposals and radical employees standing up for the right thing underline why being adaptive can play an extremely valuable role in success.

The Power of Adaptability: How Tiger Woods and High Achievers Laugh in the Face of Adversity

Life is unpredictable, no matter how successful you might be.

Think of Tiger Woods.

He was an incredible and consistent player in golf since 1996, however, in 2009 he suddenly took a nosedive from number one to 58th place.

What happened? A story emerged about his car accident outside of his house with rumors of substance abuse and infidelity circulating.

This shows why adaptability is so important; even if something comes up out of the blue and throws your life into chaos, you need to be able to think on your feet and act quickly in order to get back on track.

Woods persevered despite all odds and ended up reclaiming the number one spot by 2013.

This makes him a perfect example of what author Charles Duhigg calls “High Adaptability, High Achievement People”, or HAHAs for short – people who can stay positive and driven despite tough times.

Adaptability requires more than just positivity though; it also includes looking for solutions rather than dwelling on problems, as well as asking for help when needed rather than facing it alone.

All these skills combined are what will make you stronger during times of turmoil, whether you’re an athlete competing in sport or someone navigating business decisions.

Life is unpredictable – but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing if you know how to handle it with adaptability!

The Secret to Success in a Changing Marketplace: Anticipate, Analyze and Adapt

Internet Shopping Concept

It’s become increasingly clear that only companies that have perfected the art of adaptability will truly succeed in today’s market.

Take Ford for example.

Despite being up to their eyeballs in debt, they had to be wise enough to realize that taking a government bailout wasn’t going to fix the root of their problem: a failure (in part) to adapt to changing markets.

They soon implemented an ambitious plan called “The Way Forward” and made drastic changes – downsizing, more efficient production and manufacturing smaller and more fuel-efficient cars.

Toyota, on the other hand, was already developing emission free vehicles in 1992 – 7 years before Ford even reacted!

This shows just how important staying ahead of the curve is in this industry.

Taking advantage of new trends and being innovative enough to anticipate market changes are what sets Toyota apart from its competitors.

In short – if you’re not able to keep up with current demands, don’t expect your business to last long!

Swimming Against the Current: How Conformity Isn’t Always Necessary for Thriving

When faced with change and uncertainty, we can either swim with the current or against it.

This can be seen in the example of Filettino, a small village that chose to fight back against an Italian government reform by declaring their independence and issuing their own currency – going against the grain.

Swimming against the current doesn’t only benefit those who follow this policy – companies have also benefited from bucking trends.

Just take Levi Strauss’ move to reduce water consumption during production – instead of following tradition, they decided to rethink the process and came up with a way of finishing jeans without using any water at all!

Sometimes adapting means swimming against the current, and this type of adaptive behaviour has even had positive effects on our environment.

More companies should look towards innovative solutions like Levi Strauss’ instead of just going with what’s “normal” in order to create more sustainable business models.

The Power of Neural Plasticity: Pedro Bach-y-Rita’s Story of Adaptation and Renewal

Adaptability is an innate part of the way our brains function.

This was demonstrated in a remarkable story of Pedro Bach-y-Rita, a Spanish teacher who suffered a serious stroke in 1985.

Despite the devastating damage to his brain, he was able to recover under the supervision of his two medical student sons by engaging in activities such as crawling and catching balls.

Neural Plasticity

What enabled him to get better? It’s thanks to the concept of neural plasticity – which is the idea that our brains can adapt and change its capacity and functions.

The evidence for this was finally demonstrated in one experiment conducted by his son Paul.

Participants were blindfolded but were still able to catch balls thanks to a head-mounted camera relaying images from their tongue sensors directly into their brains.

This example shows how different pathways and neurons can adapt and tackle new tasks that they weren’t used to before.

Learning from Mistakes: Adaptability is Essential for Success, but Don’t Take it Too Far

Effective adaptation means learning from our mistakes and resisting the urge to revert back to square one.

Take the British auto industry in the 1950s, for example.

While they continued to focus on developing increasingly powerful vehicles that guzzled fuel, they missed out on a massive market segment – young, urban, environmentally-minded people.

This advantage passed to German companies producing microcars like the Messerschmitt KR200.

The except was when a small team of auto engineers at the British Motor Company decided to spearhead the production of a new style of car – The iconic Mini marketed by Morris Mini-Minor.

Learning from their peers’ mistakes and adapting quickly led them to success with over five million Minis being sold in following decades.

On the other hand, a good example of what NOT to do is PepsiCo’s disastrous introduction of a new branding for Tropicana orange juice in 2009 that caused sales plummet by 20%.

Rather than making minor modifications and fixes, PepsiCO reverted back to their old branding and wasted $33million dollars in doing so- Definitely NOT worth it!

It’s Clear That Experimentation Is Necessary for Both Business and Combat Success

Successful companies understand that experimentation is key to developing adaptability.

Those who fail to experiment can suffer costly miscalculations, as was the case with Nazi Germany during World War II.

While Allied scientists were encouraged to take their time, testing and perfecting new weapon technologies, like William Butement’s proximity fuse, German scientists had no choice but to develop short-term projects as ordered by Adolf Hitler.

The end result? The Allies ended up with an incredibly useful piece of gadgetry, capable of great destruction in a shooting war.

It was only thanks to years of dedicated experimentation that the finished article was ready for deployment and helped turn the tide of battle just in time for the Battle of the Bulge.

Ultimately, this demonstrates how important it can be for any business or organization to come up with inventive solutions through committed experimentation – perhaps learning from Apple’s example who, despite famously bombing with its first Newton handheld computer, subsequently developed it into something more useful – launching products such as the iPod and iPad that have become integral components of modern life today.

Too Much Speed Can Push Businesses to the Brink of Disaster


The Adaptability book summary clearly shows that rushing to adapt can be a major mistake.

Netflix was an example of this when they decided to split their offering into two separate components with a hefty price hike for customers who wanted to use both services.

This didn’t go down well and resulted in Netflix hemorrhaging a million subscribers, and the value of its shares dropping by 25 percent.

As the book also sees, failing to anticipate changes in the market and launch new services can be even more damaging.

Blockbuster falls into this category as they were caught entirely unaware by the streaming revolution and never launched a streaming service while Netflix began establishing itself in the market.

This, coupled with Blockbuster’s focus on customer experience in their brick-and-mortar stores despite having plenty of capital, led to their downfall.

It’s clear that rushing to adapt quickly can lead to mistakes and failure, but equally so is not taking chances or thinking ahead without proper strategy.

Adaptability: The Key to Success in a Changing Business Environment

The truth is, when a company takes its eye off the ball and loses sight of their goals, drastic measures are usually needed in order to turn things around.

This is something that Howard Schultz, Chairman of Starbucks, understood, when he took charge in 2007 and noticed that the company was no longer taking care of its customers as it once had.

As a result of complacency combined with an overly aggressive growth policy championed by the former CEO between 2002-2007, Jim Donald, Starbucks experienced a major drop in customer satisfaction.

In order to solve this issue and salvage their reputation, Schultz implemented some radical changes to transform the company and make sure they would survive.

He closed 900 stores across the country and let go of 1,000 employees – tough decisions but necessary ones if what he did next was going to work out: improving barista training to make better coffee than McDonald’s AND offering more delicious pastries and desserts.

Thanks to his bold leadership, Starbucks eventually made a full recovery.

By 2010 their revenue had returned to $10.7 billion – proof that oftentimes it takes a risk taker and an innovator who’s willing challenge the status quo in order for real change and progress to happen.

Adaptability often requires looking at the situation from new angles adapted for success – and having the courage to implement them.

Wrap Up

In conclusion, adaptability is an essential skill to have in order to succeed in various aspects of life.

Believing in the impossible can propel us further towards our goals, as proved by the example of George Church who believed in his project and made it a reality.

The key takeaways from this book are to look ahead for signs, use the prevailing winds, experiment with new solutions and be willing to change with the times.

Lastly, don’t let someone else’s skepticism limit you or stop you from innovating.

Believe that something which looks like an impossibility might just turn into reality!

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.