Adapting To Change At A Time Of Disruption With Rebecca Costa

by | Sep 24, 2020 | Podcasts

SWGR 543 | Adapting To Change


Anybody who’s going to be a thought leader and speaker out there in the world is going to have to address change. It simply is one of the only constants in life, and if you don’t learn to adapt, then you might just get left behind. Speaking about overcoming the resistance to change is this episode’s guest, Rebecca Costa. She is an American sociobiologist and futurist, the preeminent global expert on the subject of “fast adaptation,” and recipient of the prestigious Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Award. Rebecca sits down with host Elizabeth Bachman to share some great insights about change that affects men and women both differently and similarly. She talks about some evolutionary pieces and then gives organizations and individuals advice on adapting to change. At a time where disruption is so visible, it has become even more important to move forward with it. Join Rebecca and Elizabeth as they discuss further.

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Adapting To Change At A Time Of Disruption With Rebecca Costa

This is the show where we interview interesting smart people about how you can use your presentation skills to show up and affect the way people perceive you and to move people to take action. A lot of what we do is the thinking behind the presentation skills. That’s the fun of what I get to do as I get to talk to Rebecca Costa about change and adapting to change because anybody who’s going to be a thought leader and speaker out there in the world is going to have to address change. Before we begin, I would like to invite you to check out our free assessment. If you’re curious about how your presentation skills are going, you can go to In four minutes, you can see how you are strong in your presentation skills and where maybe you’d like to use, get a little bit of extra support. Rebecca Costa, welcome to the show.

Thank you for inviting me.

I’m delighted to have you here. I’m happy that your assistant found me. I said, “She wants to talk to me. Yes, I want to talk to her.” You’re the person that I listen to on podcasts all the time. It’s cool that I get to have you here. Let me give you he short version of the official bio because the main official bio is long and impressive. Rebecca Costa is an American Social Biologist and Futurist. She’s the preeminent global expert on the subject of fast adaptation, which is why I want to talk to you about. She’s the recipient of the prestigious Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Award.

Her career spans four decades of working with founders, key executives and venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. Rebecca’s first book, The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse, was an international best seller. Her follow-on book titled On The Verge was introduced in 2017 to critical acclaim, shooting to the top of Amazon’s number one new business releases. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian and many other leading publications.

I appreciate you read the short bio because the long bio makes me feel old.

Hopefully, over the years we amass lots of good tools. That’s the intention. I’m thrilled to have you here. I have all sorts of questions to ask you, but first, let me ask you something, not about current events, which is if you had a dream interview, if you could interview someone from history, who would it be? What would you ask them? Who should be listening?

I don’t have any trouble looking for role models and heroes in past history. I’m glad you didn’t ask me about finding somebody that was my dream interview now. I have more trouble finding role models and heroes now, but if I were to select one person from history, it would be Richard Feynman, the great physicist who found himself working on the first atomic bomb. That might seem like a curious person to start with. In my world, Richard Feynman was a good balance between a person who was deeply ingrained in the fundamentals of science and science-driven, but he had a rich personal life and an eclectic life. He knew that the more eclectic his personal life was, the more his brain would think creatively about problems.

He wrote a ballet that was all based on instruments. He moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, which was a cultural hub between native American culture and traditional American pilgrim culture brought from Europe. He had a weekly lunch with an artist where he would explain why a flower had a beautiful pink or red color in scientific terms. The artist would explain why that isn’t important and that isn’t the purpose of the flower and they would have these long philosophical dialogues.

Scientists, many times, get marginalized as not believing in God. Share on X

In order to be truly successful in life and also in your career, you need that input from many sources because you don’t know how it’s going to crop up later on. You don’t know how it’s going to be useful to you. Often in my work, I consult presently with the largest global corporations in the world, many times in my work on bringing in historical or artistic or musical example to help people understand the complexity that they might be dealing with. The examples outside of themselves are sometimes easier to grasp and bring in and even sometimes the terminology.

One of the things that I do in training speakers a lot is talking to them about how to use stories and metaphors to help people understand that. If you have a hard time understanding why you should hire them to install your computer system, you can say it’s because the computer system’s like a Swiss Army knife and then go from there. This is fascinating. What would you ask him?

I would probably ask him what he thought his greatest accomplishment was because I don’t think it was his participation in the atomic bomb, although that is what he is known for. I would get a balanced and philosophical answer. It might be something like choosing to move to Santa Fe, New Mexico and take the job with Los Alamos Labs because his wife was suffering from a respiratory illness that they thought the dry air might help her.

She passed away. I would get a different answer, humane answer. That’s the thing that scientists many times get marginalized. They get marginalized as not believing in God. If you believe in science, you must not believe in God. If you’re never illusionary biologists, you certainly can’t possibly be a person of faith. Scientists are portrayed as cold or maniacal or practically autistic sometimes and yet the most brilliant scientists in the world have these rich personal lives.

I have scientists in my family and I’ve had scientists for many years. Having grown up in the arts, there always was this, “Scientist have no soul,” but every scientist I know has some artistic outlet. My brother-in-law is a scientist and sang in a choir for years. It was that thing. It’s the love of music. That’s where artists can have blinders and say, “We are the only ones who can think about this.” That was pointed out to me in my twenties as how arrogant I was being. I was 24, so I was arrogant anyway but I’ve never forgotten that.

When a scientist looks at music or we look at art, we approach it differently. We’re looking for pattern and for things that we can identify, quantify, measure, repeat. We’re looking for things differently. This is why dialogues that went on between Feynman and his artistic friend once a week were fascinating, and many of them he recorded in a diary. They’re about a flower and the color in the flower or the beauty of nature and yet they approached it differently. According to Feynman, both benefited from having the information that the other had. You might have some eclectic copies, like singing in a choir, or you might learn to play the guitar and you might not see the relevance to the way in which you’re going to solve a difficult or complex problem, but your imagination requires content.

You’re not going to solve a physics problem if you’ve never taken a course in physics and solve a medical problem if you’re not trained in medicine. The more content you have, the more resources your brain has to draw on, and this is important. Even though you might not think a walk-in nature is giving you any content, you might notice a bug, you might follow that bug to an anthill. You might spend some time looking at how social insects work on that anthill that might give you an idea about your own leadership in your own group. This is how the imagination stretches. Our brains are phenomenal organs. To that extent, I’m most interested in people who have a richness not only in their professional life, but in their personal life.

They always say, “Your best ideas come in the shower.” It’s because your hands are busy with something else, something repetitive and it leaves your mind free to roam.

SWGR 543 | Adapting To Change

Adapting To Change: The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse

I always wondered if that was the hot water hitting my head.

It could be that too. One of the things we don’t think about is the whole tactical sensation of water hitting your head. It is one of the things that it’s hard nowadays to remove ourselves from distractions. For instance, if you’re in the shower, you’re not listening to the news. If you’re listening to something that has content, part of your brain is busy of the content, and then it shuts off some of the imagination aspect.

It’s also a reason that I solve a lot of problems in my car. Because I’m alone, no one else is going to get in the car and I’ve got 15 or 30 minutes or 1-hour drive. I love to drive and I’m smart. I have a piece of paper, a little note pad, and a pen there. I write a couple of key words to remind myself so I could get back because I find that once that thinking period is over, I knew I had an answer, but it was hard to access.

I often wonder if going for a walk, listening to podcasts is shutting off my access to the ideas.

I think there is a relationship between quiet time and your brain’s permission to roam. You do come up with some interesting ideas. For me, there’s a timeframe. It’s early in the morning. This is very inconvenient because I find that between 4:00 and 6:00 AM, I do my best writing and my best thinking, I can force myself to write and think through problems after 6:00 AM, but the quality is never as good. That’s probably many years from now. They’ll find it’s a biorhythmic thing. It has something to do with my cycles. When I’m working on a particularly difficult problem, I have to set my alarm at 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning and not only don’t I like it, my dog hates it.

I think loading content, finding some quiet time, distractions are not good. Some people get their best ideas when they’re washing dishes, some in the shower, someone taking a walk, someone driving, you know these things about yourself. It’s always good to take an assessment and say, “When do I have my best ideas?” For me, it is in the shower and it’s driving. Sometimes when I’m struggling with something, I’m going to take a lot of heat for this because of the carbon footprint that I’m creating willingly. I will get in my car and I will drive somewhere where I need to. I might not go to the closest store to me. I might go to a further store because I need that time driving my car that now stimulates the ideas or I might take another shower in the middle of the afternoon if I need that stimulation. I think it’s okay to be honest with yourself about the strange things that leave you to be able to solve difficult problems.

This leads me to one of my basic questions. For those of us who aren’t in your world, you call yourself a sociobiologist, and bearing in mind we have a lot of international readers whom English is not their first language. Part of what you were talking about sounds like maybe what you mean by sociobiology, but I’m guessing. Can you define that for us please?

Even if English is your first language, 99% of the population doesn’t know what a sociobiologist is. I don’t think it would matter if English was your first language. Sociobiologists look at how societies behave from a genetic and evolutionary perspective. One way to think about it is we have some evolutionary programming in this biological space too and it has an influence on how societies form themselves, how they behave and how the individuals in that society behave.

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We’ve gotten far away from that. We act like there’s no biological programming, that everything is based on freewill and free decision, but time and time again, scientists run experiments and people act in ways that are not rational. Typically, when societies and individuals act in irrational ways, there’s an evolutionary explanation for why that instinct or why that behavior persisted. It was to our survival advantage at one point and yet the society has moved forward to a point where it may no longer be in our interest to behave in that particular way.

This touches on a lot of things that I think about all the time about the evolutionary and genetic basis on how we communicate and why you have single-focused communicators and multifocal communicators. It’s often known as the masculine mode and the feminine mode. Although, I do believe we can all adapt. Plenty of times, I’m in masculine mode or feminine mode. Is that the thing that might be a sociobiological answer to that?

It could be. Let me explain. Most people are not biologists that are reading the blog, but if we were to cut the skulls open of a male and a female, pull their brains out and assuming they were the same size, we would immediately be able to identify the female brain and which was the male brain. They’re not the same. I think people are going around saying that the brain is exactly the same in a woman as a man. No. They didn’t evolve similarly and they’re not similar. The speech centers and the communication centers of the brain are much larger in women than they are in men. They’re overdeveloped. The areas that require better spatial understanding of objects and that kind of thing is more developed in males. The corpus callosum, which connects the left and the right hemisphere of the brain is about 30% larger in women.

That cord or cable and many people and neuroscientists believe that explains a women’s intuition where both sides of your brain are firing at exactly the same point in time. We have to understand that our brains are physiologically not the same. There is a physiological explanation why men are not as communicative, typically, as women are and particularly about feelings and emotions and all of that. You can think about it as a physiological handicap. That’s the way I handle lack of communication. I go, “If you were blind, would I be mad at you? No. You might as well be because you don’t have the communication biological facilities that I have.” We have to understand that a lot of the differences between men and female are physiologically-based. With that said, you can compensate for that.

Since I know that my logic centers are not as well developed as males and my ability to judge special distances is not as well as a scientist, I had to compensate for that. I said, “I’ve got a physiological handicap, so I’ve got to work harder in mathematics and I’ve got to work harder and in physics.” I was compensatory in that way, but it’s important to understand the physiology. There’s a reason why women’s communication skills, probably became superior and that is because women have a long gestation period of giving birth. Nine months amongst mammals is long. They were typically sheltered in caves or in safe locations while the men went out and became the hunters, the women became the gathers, and we know this from human history.

The men have to judge the distance and the speed at which predators were coming at them. They had to remain quiet for long periods of time, as they grew, punt, hunted. Women on the other hand became social. They stayed in small areas and they jointly raised children together. We believe their communication centers grew out of that. Their language skills were better. Their interdependence was better. We believed that was the differential and that has persisted. When you see people going into marriage counseling and they say, “He never communicates my feelings,” I always have a smile on my face when I’m watching these reality shows and I’m thinking there is a biological explanation, but it probably won’t make it on the TV.

This thing is a huge part of my work with clients because a lot of what I do is helping women speak to men and to get men to listen to them. However, as you were saying all of this, there are many value judgments popping up in the back of my mind. I was biting my tongue to say, “Is that good? Is that bad? Is that wrong? Is it women downgrading men for not communicating or is it men?” If the woman says, “He never talks about his feelings,” the man might say, “She never gets to the point.” I had a whole choir going at the back of my mind.

As a scientist, I’ve chosen a different lane than you. I think the lane you’re in and the reason I’m on your program is an important one because we have to work, solve problems and defend against threats together. There has to be a way that men listen to women. Women listen to men. That’s important. As a scientist, I don’t have a value judgment. It’s neither good nor bad. It just is. In today’s world, we’re quick to say, “You’re saying something bad about women or you’re saying something good about men or bad about men.” I am neither. I am simply stating facts. I noticed that we have to put this extra layer on the fact, “Is it a good fact or a bad fact?”

SWGR 543 | Adapting To Change

On the Verge

No. It’s a fact. It has no value whatsoever. This is why I always start with if we had two brains of equal size, even an amateur biologist would be able to say female, male instantly. We are not physiologically the same. We are not designed to behave the same or think the same. That doesn’t mean we’re not equal and it doesn’t mean that you can’t compensate for whatever shortfall, but you’re not going to compensate for shortfall you don’t know you have.

Even as an adaptation that ways to adapt to function in the world that is run by one system or another. I’m trying to think of a non-value judgment way to say this.

Let me talk about something that is in your lane and I think is important because if you want women to be heard and you want women to be part of the process, not because people think they should include women, but because they bring value. That’s the only reason why. The thing for me was when I started out in Silicon Valley in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, there were no women. Engineering was a male profession and any room that I went into as an executive, I was the only woman there.

Tell us what you were the executive of?

I worked for a couple of computing firms. One was bought by General Electric, one by United Telecom and then I worked for General Electric for a period of time until I went to a startup incubation company and then I formed my own company in Silicon Valley and sold it. That’s the short version that doesn’t make me feel old. The interesting thing that I discovered quickly was that no one was listening to me. I was frustrated and my father happened to live on the way to my house. I would always stop by and talk to him and he was a great sounding board for me. I would tell him how frustrated I was. I’d say, “I keep telling them we have to do this and here’s the budget. They say, ‘Go back and study it again.’ I’m in this endless loop of making a case. When the other guys don’t have to do this, why do I have to keep studying it and bringing more data and everything and other guys get stuff through and all of that?”

He listened to me and said, “I’m going to tell you something that you don’t want to hear. You’re going to have to be better than those guys.” My first words out of my mouth were, “That’s not fair.” He said, “When you’re better than them, you can deal with fair. You got it backwards. Do you want fair first? Get the power first and then you can work on fair.” I was stuck on, “It’s not fair.” This doesn’t happen to apply to sexual discrimination, but also to racial discrimination or cultural discrimination or sexual preference discrimination. If a company needs you so badly, they can’t afford to discriminate.

You have to make yourself valuable that they have to forget you’re a woman or black or Hispanic or a door or that you are missing an eye or that you’re a ball, that you’re obese. They have to forget that because they need the scale you have desperately. In other words, you have to put the company in a bit of a fear state that they could lose you if they don’t take care of that. I’m going to go back to our evolutionary history. Anytime you see a movie where a meteor’s going to hit the Earth or space aliens are going to attack us, why do we like those movies so much?

We like them because suddenly all the countries in the world come together and collaborate to defend against the common enemy. That is in our DNA. The reason we are social troop-dwelling organisms and that the human organism has climbed to the top of the living pyramid is because when a predator or a threat or a danger came our way that was greater than any individual could fend off, we came together as a group and fended off that threat. This is in our DNA. When we need each other, we’re quick to come together. This is the key to overcoming any of the isms. This is what I did. I decided my dad was right, I pushed fair aside and I decided I would become valuable to the company, they couldn’t afford to discriminate against me. I made myself better than the men. When I got that power, I started hiring and mentoring women. I worked on fair immediately.

If a company needs you so badly, they can't afford to discriminate. Share on X

One of the things that this brings up is change. How do we change? How do we adapt? Which is essentially what I was starting to ask you about, but we’ve gone off in all these interesting directions. It’s the joy of live conversation is how can organizations adapt? I’ve been putting in there. I have thought for years in watching society and I think a lot about historical cycles and how things evolve, people don’t change unless they have to, unless the alternative is worse. Otherwise, who would ever go on a diet? Why would I ever stop eating chocolate chip cookies unless I was trying to still fit into my pants? How can an organization be able to adapt to change? We’re still in the middle of the COVID-19. The pandemic is still raging. The world is changing. How can we adapt?

If you think about it, we have a lot of tools now that we didn’t have before. I have the areas that I specialize in is predictive analytics. That’s basically taking billions of data points and looking at how they trend and then being able to anticipate what the next action is going to be. The more data you have, the higher your percentage of prediction is going to be accurate. We are massing so much data that we’re entering a period where we know what comes next. You can’t say that we didn’t know a virus like this could spread and shut everything down. We’ve had knowledge of this, for many decades scientists have. Unfortunate is the human body is only designed to react to short-term threat. This is why we’re not doing anything about climate change.

We didn’t do anything about the virus when we could have. We’re not doing anything about the government deficit. Try to talk to a twenty-year-old about saving for retirement or buying life insurance, their eyes roll up in the back of their head. That’s because if you think about it, if I take a snake and throw it down in front of you, you bypass and you’re thinking, your body immediately floods with chemicals, then you go into fight or flight, which are both actions. If I start talking to you about things that are 5, 10, 15, 20 years down the road, your heartbeat doesn’t even go up one beat an hour, nothing happens to you physiologically. You’re not designed to spring into action. It’s unnatural to try to act on something that’s twenty years out.

This is the human biology entering into how we behave and how as a society, we address problems. Unless I can make that problem immediate and get your juices going and get you to take action, nothing happens. We see this in a lot of long-term problems. When you talk to me about adaptation, I believe that because we have the tools to see what’s going to happen, we see robotics are going to happen. We see 3D printing happening. We see nanotechnology, 5G and machine-to-machine communication. We see the jobs that are going to be lost and be gone because they will no longer be necessary. We know what these things are. Don’t put your head in the sand, get ready for what’s coming and you know it’s coming. It’s not going to come.

My biggest problem with people is that they want to adapt on the fly. When it comes all adapt, that doesn’t work. It doesn’t work in nature, which is the greatest empirical example that we have. You have to start to make the turn like an ocean liner. Do you want to make the turn? You’ve got to start at miles ahead. You’re not a speed boat. You’re an ocean liner and you need to prepare yourself for what’s coming. What I talk about is pre-adaptation. In my book, On The Verge, twelve principles of pre-adaptation that allow you to start adapting before the environment changes, before the disruptive event occurs, you have to prepare yourself in advance because those are the survivors and we know what those principles are.

How do we get ourselves to do that?

We don’t. Biologically, I’m asking you to go against your biology that says, “I’ll change when I have to.” You won’t be one of the survivors. By the way, there is no opportunity to thrive in the middle of a crisis. Believe me, some companies are making more money than they’ve ever made in the history of their company in the middle of COVID. You want to be one of those where when disruption and change occurs, you as an individual and your company can thrive in the face of change, not be devastated by it.

How do we get ourselves to do it? A short-term thing is always a challenge for me. I have a coach who’s helping me train myself to work on the long-term projects instead of answering emails and spending the first three hours of the morning answering emails. Rather than dealing with something, which I know is coming when it’s not imminent yet. If it’s not a deadline, I’m not going to work on it. How can we manufacturer crisis? We have to set up accountability, set up deadlines. If we know this as a tendency, what can we do about it?

SWGR 543 | Adapting To Change

Adapting To Change: Be one of those where when disruption and change occur, you, as an individual, and your company can thrive in the face of change, not be devastated by it.

There are always compensatory behaviors. I’m a big believer in compensatory behaviors.

How do we compensate them?

A simple example and then I’ll go to your example of procrastinating until the deadline is on you. A lot of college students can relate to this because they work on their term paper. They have all quarter to work on it and they’ll work on it two days before it’s due and they’ll stress themselves out. By the way, it’s not good for you physiologically to operate in that way. I used to always run late by 5 or 10 minutes and I knew it was wrong. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t manage my time better. I took all my clocks and I set them 5 and 10 minutes ahead. I forgot about it. I’m a dunce. Every time I look at my clock in my house, I think it’s correct.

I haven’t done that on my cell phone. It took me a long time to add minutes because your cell phone doesn’t want to do that. Every time I look at anything, I’ve forgotten that I have an extra 5 or 10 minutes. One good thing about me is I’m easily fooled. I made that discovery. Now, I arrive on time or slightly early. If you’re a procrastinator, then it means that you’re externally-driven. You’re externally-driven by a deadline. You’re not internally-driven. In a case like that is to make an acknowledgement and find somebody who you need to give that paper to proofread for you and they need time.

Back that up and say, “I need someone to look at my outline and see if my outline is a narrative they can follow.” Back that deadline up. In other words, the big deadline is the problem. Lots of small deadlines that involve other people because you’re not internally-driven. If you have something and I’m going to go out on a limb here and because I’m a socio biologist and sometimes people confuse that with being a psychic, because I can get in, I know the patterns to look for. I would say about you, if you have something you have to deliver to another person or they are counting on you, you never fail.

I learned that years ago was I had to set up deadlines for myself and that I would tell my assistants, “Plug me early.”

You’re going to deliver no matter what if it’s another person, but if it’s yourself, you may cut yourself slack, “I don’t have to get. I’ll do it next week.” You don’t hold the deadline to yourself at the same standard as you hold the deadline and the obligation to someone else.

Is there a sociobiological reason for this? Maybe I can stop beating myself up and saying, “This is the way I’m built.”

I don’t know. I’d have to think about it. I didn’t know that the conversation was going to go in this direction. There probably is, but I don’t know right off the top of my head what that would be.

Let’s take it out of the personal and me procrastinating because that’s a lifelong challenge. How about institutions? Many of the people I work with work within institutions, corporations. I have run a company, you’ve run a company or 2 or 3. How can we help institutions, corporations, companies recognize the resistance to change and be willing to adapt?

We to educate them and help the company understand why it’s been successful. Companies are Pavlovian. They start they’re started by a founder and that founder’s values become the culture of the corporation.

Pavlovian as in Pavlov’s dog that’s trained.

If a company needs you so badly, they can't afford to discriminate. Share on X

Eventually, you ring the bell and the dog salivates even without the food. When I talk about Pavlov’s dogs, I talk about corporations being rather Pavlovian. You start out with your founder’s values. If it’s Steve Jobs, his values became Apple computers culture. Sam Walton, his values became Walmart’s culture. As that company becomes more successful, it becomes institutionally entrenched because it’s rewarded for doing and acting in a particular way. It keeps getting rewarded. It gets larger. Now, you’ve come along and you say, “We’ve got to change.” People are not going for super stores anymore. They want to buy online. There’s only so much Walmart can do.

They saw Amazon coming. Walmart could have become Amazon, but they couldn’t change that much. The reason is because they’ve been rewarded for superstores for so long that the most that they could do is they were able to do curbside delivery. You can walk the bags to your car from the superstore. They are not going to give up the superstores. In the same way that Amazon now is trying to open up is buying the old JC Penny’s and all of that and is going to try to move into the storefront. It’s going to be hard for Amazon to do that because that’s not their culture nor their value nor what they were reinforced for.

We have to understand that it’s difficult for those companies to do. What is smart is to do what Boeing did many decades ago and that is to create Skunk Works that are at an arm’s length distance from the mothership. Let me give you a successful example of what Toyota did. Toyota was an economy car business and they wanted to get into luxury car business. They knew that the economy car business had too many obstacles to be able to get into luxury automobiles.

What did they do? They created Lexus, a different brand, a different operation, different executives, different culture. Lexus is a Toyota effectively, but it’s run like a luxury car company. It’s not run like an economic. Many times, you’ve got to create a distance. If you know that a market is changing and you know that you have institutional resistance, you’ve got to create a Skunk Works or an arm’s length or even a different brand and begin investing in that so that you can run in parallel for a period of time.

Thinking of Toyota, Toyota has a research institute that is working on a separate subset of the mothership.

They have an R&D facility that the mothership is not allowed to dictate.

They’re working on self-driving cars, but they’re also working on AI and robotics for the home where people who are, let’s say, as you’re aging, you can use robotics to do some of the things that maybe the aging brain is forgetting to do so that people can still live independently. That one took me awhile. When I learned about that, I said, “What does that have to do with cars?” It’s the same original category as the org file of the self-driving cars.

When you think about it, Toyota is forward-looking. They’re basically saying, “There’s a massive aging population. They want to live independently. What can we do to extend the possibility of them living independently 3 or 5 or 10 years? Can we take this technology and adapt it?” What are they doing? They’re preadapting to where the market is going. They’re not waiting until there are no more beds in assisted living. They’re basically saying, “We can delay assisted living for a long period of time by the use of technology.”

There is no opportunity to thrive in the middle of a crisis. Share on X

From pre-adapting ourselves, clearly once you go and read your book, that’s On The Verge, to helping institutions change. I’ve got one more question, which is suppose you’re in an institution and you can see the need for change, but there’s resistance. You don’t have a Toyota Research Institute. Are there ways one could start? Are there early steps that one can take to help a company adapt?

One of the clients that I have is a large global corporation and they’re having a lot of trouble innovating when disruption comes along. what they ask us to do is to look for partners in the world that were doing bleeding edge innovation. Once a year, to have a day where those partners are brought into the company and make executive and leadership presentations. We have an innovation day and it’s fun because we bring in eight companies each for an hour each one presents through lunch and the top brass from the president, the board and all the EVPs, they all get together and they sit and they watch these presentations from these corporations and from these scientists and universities of what’s coming.

With no obligation to do anything whatsoever, engage them or anything. It helps them to have a wake-up call because people have to see, “Why do people go to trade shows? Why do they roll those aisles and look at all those boosts?” They go to see how far along the technology and the development is and is there something that they’re missing? It’s an inefficient way to do it. It’s better to have things curated for your specific organization. If you can find consultants like myself that will go out and say, “We’ve got 180 scientists that stand in the world and we know what is going to affect your marketplace.”

We’re going to bring in eight leaders who are on the cutting edge that you should engage or license or develop some preemptively, get them working with your company and we bring those in. We’ve done this six years in a row and not a single executive will miss it. They love it. They get to touch and feel it. They go, “This is working and this is crazy.” This was many years ago, we were bringing drones in that were doing warehouse scanning and we’re bringing facial recognition software in. We were bringing blockchain in, tied to their specific products. You’ve got to preadapt, you’ve got to know what’s coming. By the time you read about it or someone in the industry tells you about it, you’re way too late.

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I think I’m going to have to check in with you about six months from now and see where we are going because I want to have you back and say, “Now, what do we do?” I’m definitely going to listen to this over and think about how we can do it. Certainly, changing in my business, but also the people around you. This has been fascinating. If you have one thought to leave us with, besides read your books, definitely read your books. Is there one key nugget you can leave us with?

Change is constant. Disruption is constant. It’s COVID. Prior to this, it might have been 9/11 or the subprime mortgage collapse. Industries and careers come and go. The one skill that every corporation and every individual has to have is their resiliency and their adaptability. That is the one skill that remains constant. To the extent that you acquire that skill and you master it, you will thrive when these disruptions occur. You won’t be devastated by them and be harmed. You’ll thrive. You’ll be able to opportunistically make that adjustment.

Rebecca Costa, thank you for having been on the show. It’s an absolute honor to have you here. I’m very interested in learning more following you. I’m definitely going to have to check in. When we see what happens and adapting to the next bit of change, that will be great. If you’re interested in your presentation skills, how they connect to leadership and adapting to change and if you want to see where your presentation skills stand, take our free assessment at In only four minutes, you can see where you’re rocking your presentation skills and where you might need a little bit of support. I’ll see you on the next one.


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About Rebecca Costa

Rebecca D. Costa is an American sociobiologist and futurist. She is the preeminent global expert on the subject of “fast adaptation” and recipient of the prestigious Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Award. Her career spans four decades of working with founders, key executives and venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. Costa’s first book, The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse, was an international bestseller. Her follow‐on book, titled On the Verge was introduced in 2017 to critical acclaim, shooting to the top of Amazon’s #1 New Business Releases. Costa’s work has been featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, SF Chronicle, The Guardian, and other leading publications.