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These aren't the circumstances I was anticipating. I don't have the resources to do this job. What you are asking of me is nothing I am prepared to do. Ever feel like this? Welcome to the world of "winging it." Everyone finds themselves in these situations from time to time. Given enough time, assets, and a familiar environment, most people can complete the task, solve the problem or finish the project. But plunge us into areas marked 'not prepared' or 'unexpected' and most of us don't fare all that well.

There are, however, the rare few who seem to excel in these situations. Despite shifting situations, reduced time, money, and other valuable resources, these people find a way to get it done-and with great results. These individuals 'wing it' and still land firmly and skillfully on their feet. These people have developed what scientists are now referring to as 'adaptive expertise'.

Recent research reveals that adaptive expertise has two key features: efficiency and innovation. The scientists found that routine experts (i.e., perform very well in familiar situations) scored high in efficiency but low in innovation. By contrast, the adaptive experts (i.e., perform very well in unfamiliar situations) scored high in both efficiency AND innovation. Adaptive experts find a balance between using current knowledge and creating new knowledge. Developing adaptability requires a blended use of both components - efficiency and innovation. Interestingly, the two factors in isolation do not stimulate adaptability.

So the next time you are in an unfamiliar situation and need to 'wing it', determine what you already know or have that will help, and then use your imagination to create what else is needed to complete the task. Easier said than done? Yes. But you get better at adapting with practice, and you now have a scientifically based strategy for 'winging it'!


Larry Hart

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