Adaptive Change shifts mindsets, habits, behaviors, and culture in order to respond to adaptive challenges, which are challenges where:
- the problem definition is not initially clear at the outset and requires learning;
- where the solution or solutions to the challenges require learning, discovery and/or new tools and approaches; and
- where the work to resolve the challenge resides not in the authority structure but in all the stakeholders in the challenge working together to resolve it.
This is in contrast to three other types of change:
Technical changes involve the use of tools, processes, people, and procedures with clear expertise (and the authority to execute the change), to solve clearly-defined problems, with clear solutions.
Technical-Adaptive changes occur in systems with clearly-defined problems where the solutions are not clear, and those with expertise and/or authority, and those who are stakeholders in the change must collaborate to learn, discover, and develop solutions together.
Complex-Technical changes occur in systems where problems are not clearly defined and require learning and/or discovery to even define the problem. Once the problem is clarified, however, a clear technical solution emerges, and an authority / expert can execute the solution.