Why do we see pinker, downy peaches than smooth yellow ones? The Curcilo beetle loves to feed on the latter. Not only does it come without abrasive fuzz, unlike its pink counterpart, it also tastes better to the beetle. As a result of these small changes in design, texture, and colour, the pink peach keeps pests at bay and thrives better. This is part of Darwins theory of evolution, which proffered the idea of survival of the fittest.This is a concept that applies to women in the workplace too, with one small difference. While plants and animals use natural selection which is an organic way of growth towards survival, we need to approach it with more intent and purpose. This, in corporate and entrepreneurial parlance, is called Cognitive Adaptability. According to Haynie Shepherd (2009), it is 'the ability to be dynamic, flexible, and self-regulating in one's cognitions given dynamic and uncertain task environments.'Cognitive Adaptability is the ability to change or adjust based on feedback from the environment in which they work, in order to derive maximum benefit from that change, says psychologist Rashmi Madan Singh. This is especially used among entrepreneurs in their decision-making and policy-making processes at work, but can also be used by individuals to ensure progress in the professional sphere. We all use cognitive adaptability on a daily basis subconsciously, such as switching modes from talking to a boss to engaging with a customer. We have the innate ability to be flexible and adapt, yet few of us do because were so set in our ways. Also, there is a fear of failing or negative results when you try something new. If your approach doesnt work, will you be punished for it? This need for psychological safety also has bearing on how much an individual cognitively adapts.She goes on to say, A classic example of Cognitive Adaptability is the British Royal Family. Theyre flawed and dont always get it right (were not going there now!), but theyve consciously tried to stay relevant, up-to-date with the times, and adapt to the times, doing whatever it takes within the framework of their value system to ensure the survival of the institution.There are five dimensions of Cognitive Adaptability. The first is Goal Orientation or setting goals based on environmental characteristics and the need to adapt. The second is Metacognitive Knowledge of both ones internal preferences and values, as well as those of the people youve got to work with. The third is Metacognitive Experience, which is a combination of your past experiences as well as your intuition. The fourth, and perhaps most crucial, is Metacognitive Choice or Control, which allows you to evaluate and decide the outcome based on the first three dimensions. The last is Metacognitive Monitoring, which is the post-implementation under which you can study the effectiveness of your decision.Siddhanth Kurien, a recruitment and HR manager in a technology design firm says, Consistency is a virtue, but it often leads to complacence, which can make you like a horse with blinkers. When we hire talent, we dont just look for skills and qualifications. We also look for people who keep their eyes and ears open, who are willing to move with the changing times, who can anticipate what the need of the hour is. If our workforce doesnt fit the bill, we stand to be leapfrogged by our competitors. So the consequences are far-reaching they dont just impact individual performance.This rings true in the case of Nokia. Remember when mobile phones first took off in the early 2000s? Nokia held over 60 per cent of the Indian market share was theirs, and they were all set to look towards a rewarding monopoly in this market. Despite this first-mover advantage, in 2010, their market share was a mere two per cent, with Blackberry being the order of the day. Today, both Nokia and Blackberry are history for one main reason lack of cognitive adaptability. They failed to anticipate consumer needs and desires, paving way for Apple and Samsung to take up lions share of the market.On the other hand, think about Amul. For over 50 years, theyve been appealing to our sensibilities by getting their communication and messaging absolutely right. Their advertisements are iconic even today. This is part of the reason they still retain their market share in a field that is saturated with other brand alternatives.Says Kurien, Think about this situation. You have an important event to launch a new product. Suddenly your key speaker takes ill. What do you do? Do you fall apart? Do you work with the resources you have? Do you try to reach out to all your contacts and find a substitute who is as impactful as your original choice? How you apply Cognitive Adaptability quickly and effectively in this situation, making informed and conscious decisions, could have far-reaching benefits. Handling work stress, emergencies, or crisis situations is all part of Cognitive Adaptability.The story of Indias star meteorologist and formidable woman achiever Anna Mani is a classic example of this tool even though the term was yet to be coined. You may best know her as the scientist who returned a pair of diamond earrings that she received on her eighth birthday, asking for a set of Encyclopaedia Britannica instead. But there was another event where she exercised Cognitive Adaptability remarkable for a woman of her times and conservative upbringing. In 1945, she sailed to London alone, after being offered a scholarship to study physics at the Imperial College. When she arrived, she found that the only internship available was in meteorological instrumentation. Not to be deterred, Mani quickly made a decision and shifted streams. This decision made her a pioneer in her field, with significant achievements and contributions to society.