Adaptability: The Underestimated Skill
We all know the definition of insanity – doing the exact same thing over and over again, expecting different results each time. But what happens when you’re trained to always run the same report, or write the same code, and something fundamentally changes? Do you try to force-feed the existing process into the new system? Or do you thoughtfully and methodically work within the new environment to solve the problem? Adaptability isn’t always a skill associated with analysts, but I’d argue that, for everyone’s sanity, it’s one we all need.
Picture this – you manage a monthly report. Everything is automated cleanly, and save for a few quick gut-checks, there is very little manual work required. Then your office updates its software, or switches database management systems. Suddenly your process doesn’t work at all, or if it does, it returns vastly different results. You make a relatively minor tweak, knowing that this has worked countless times before, and try again. And again. And again. And the insanity begins to kick in.
The good news is, contrary to popular belief, adaptability can be learned. When I find myself banging my head against the wall, I try to employ one of these strategies:
- Take a step back. Leave the problem for an hour or two (or better yet, overnight!), and focus your energies on something different.
- Try to approach it from someone else’s perspective. Think through the questions you would ask if someone else approached you with this problem.
- Collaborate. Ask a colleague, and frame the problem broadly so you don’t limit their response based on what you’ve already tried.
Similarly to how you hear “ya’ll” in the south and “yinz” in Pittsburgh even though they mean the same thing, coding languages and formulas are sometimes written slightly differently based on the environment. If you have experience with Tableau, you know the frustration of trying to find the correct syntax when replicating an Excel formula you have already perfected. Or if you’ve worked in SQL, switching from Oracle to Microsoft SQL Server can be the impetus for Googling “translate PL/SQL to T-SQL”. In each scenario, adaptability is critical to success. If you have the skills to adjust to your circumstances, you are less likely to spend hours trying to force an old solution into a new problem, and more likely to avoid the insanity that can come with it.
With these tips, and the right training and resources, analysts can learn to adapt to the right language for their environment, and avoid going insane.