I revisited the Deloitte group's report titled 2013 Shift Index: "A collection of articles focusing on the future of business".

While not to be an epic retelling, John Hagel III reviews Netflix's rebound and rise in online video streaming. As a counter-example, Borders, which invested heavily in physical stores, failed to evolve with the emerging shift of internet commerce.

Read more on The Importance of Knowledge Flows. Why learning is the only sustainable response to the increasing pressures of the Big Shift

What did Netflix, and other companies and organizations get right, while the unfortunate ones lost it and folded?

Adaptive learning, that is, learning from your customers, clients, whoever.

This reminds me of a clever saying: You can't stop the waves but you can learn how to surf.

Hagel highlights the capability of adaptive learning, rather than taking advantage of technology, or whatever hot thing is out there at the moment. He continues on:

Why do we focus on learning rather than, say, strategies for taking advantage of mobile, cloud computing, social media, or the Internet of Things? The world described by the Shift Index is one where disruption happens fast, much faster than we might think possible. Prediction and forecasting can’t keep pace with the changes in the world around us.

Technology shifts are tough to forecast. The focus shifts to learning quickly from the customer via rapid feedback then making sense of the opportunities:

This thinking extends from the individual up into the organization and beyond, into the ecosystem. Not just how can we learn, but how can we learn faster? We’re still early in the Big Shift, but if we can figure this out, we create an environment of increasing returns, expanding opportunity, and more value for everybody.

I'd like to add on top of that how well collaborative groups can do it, too: How they rein in and filter information, make sense of emerging patterns and shifts, then translate those insights into something actionable.

And then do it all over again.

What does this have to do with the nonprofit leadership conversation?

I feel that this parallels the nonprofit organizations as well. But unless one has been living under a rock, there's been much talk already about adapting design research, reiterating on services, and then evolving them through time, rather than waiting for months or years to see the outcome.

But the nonprofit conversation often gets swept with social media and tech as the only precursors to innovation.

What might you do to understand your organization's own knowledge flows?

Consider adaptive learning as the only sustainable option for any organization's future longevity. Make learning a cultural trait. Not talking about flavor of the month training programs, either.

What are your feedback loops like? How are you observing and learning about what clients or constituents want? Are you revisiting your programs and services often? Turning new insights into action?