AAEP Business Coverage: Adaptability as a Competency for Success in Equine Practice 

At the 2023 AAEP Convention, Dr. Eleanor Green presented on the importance of adaptability in equine practice.
Two equine veterinarians from different generations, adapting to change in equine practice.
We currently have five generations in equine practice, and the profession can benefit from the diversity of thought brought about by people with different life experiences. | Getty Images

Former AAEP president Eleanor Green, DVM, DACVIM, DABVP, gave an intriguing presentation at the 2023 AAEP Convention on adaptability as a core competency for success. She questioned whether increased adaptability among practitioners could decrease attrition from the profession, lower the rate of burnout, and minimize stress and anxiety.  

“The only constant in life is change,” she reminded the audience, an idea first advanced by an ancient Greek philosopher. She said change is no longer linear but exponential. 

Changes in Veterinary Medicine

Green described significant recent changes in veterinary medicine, including the development of practice management software, electronic medical records, telemedicine, digital medical technologies, and artificial intelligence (AI). Integrating these new tools into our lives and practices requires openness to change. She said we currently have five generations in practice and championed the diversity of thought brought about by people with different life experiences. She noted that change is unstoppable and questioned how we would integrate these changes into our lives, practices, and professional associations. “What will the practice of the future look like?” she queried. 

Rather than graduating career-ready veterinarians, Green said she wants to graduate future-ready veterinarians. Using the movie “Moneyball” as an example, she described the changes the first use of data analytics brought to a baseball team and the difficulties the team’s management had accepting them. She compared this scenario to that of new practitioners suggesting change to older practitioners and recommended holding out for change, even through adversity. In baseball, for instance, all teams now routinely use data analysis. 

Adaptability in Equine Practice

For change to be successful, Green stated, adaptability is essential. The adaptability quotient (AQ) is more important for success than emotional intelligence (EQ), and both have more impact than the intelligence quotient (IQ), she added. AQ has been defined broadly as “the capacity to adjust one’s thoughts and behaviors in order to effectively respond to uncertainty, new information, or changed circumstances.” It encompasses resilience, flexibility, problem-solving ability, and openness to new experiences. This metric measures ability to adapt and thrive in an ever-changing world, and it is the only way to prepare for the unknown.  

Adaptability is coachable, and a scientifically validated measure of AQ is available for individuals to test their AQ. Those with high AQ have higher life satisfaction, job satisfaction, and job performance, Green said. In addition, they have less burnout, view stressors as challenges rather than threats, and have a more positive state of well-being. High levels of adaptability are associated with higher learning ability, more confidence, and greater creative output. People with high AQ also typically remain calm under pressure, display curiosity amid change, and are more likely to develop excellent leadership skills, she added.  

Green then debunked the myth of younger people being more adaptable than their older counterparts. Instead, she said, young people are more comfortable with the new because they don’t have to unlearn the old. She demonstrated the difficulty inherent in unlearning by showing a video of someone trying to ride a bike with reversed handlebars. Although it is difficult, she said, we can unlearn the past and adapt to the future so we succeed and thrive amid exponential change. To do so, we must intentionally embrace change, learn continuously, practice resilience, develop problem-solving skills, and be agile, she explained. In addition, we must develop our EQ, seek diverse experiences, step out of our comfort zone, reflect on and learn from our experiences, and seek feedback from others, she added. 

Final Thoughts

In closing, Green cited a quote from Warren Buffett: “People who resist are guaranteed to become obsolete and fail.” She also cited Charles Darwin, who wrote, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives nor the most intelligent. It is the one most adaptable to change.” 

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