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Is there a difference in meaning between 应变能力 and 适应能力 in this sentence? If so, can you please try to explain it?

公司领导人认为,在未来十年的商战中,最重要的武器是应变能力、适应能力和创新能力。

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应变 is a short form of 适应/应付 变化, 应变能力 means the capacity of adapt to the change (of environment). The key point is how to deal with the change.

适应能力 means the capacity of adapt to the environment, the key point is how to adapt to the existing environment.

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  • Can you suggest alternative words which are not so close to each other in meaning? You seem to have set 应变=适应 in your answer, which was my problem in the first place. There is really not much difference is there? Both seem to mean adapt. – Pedroski Apr 23 '15 at 7:07
  • @Pedroski No, 应变 is not equal to 适应, but equal to 适应变化, so the defference is the object, to adapt to the change? or just the environment. – user4072 Apr 23 '15 at 7:11
  • So 应变 is just a short form of 适应变化 = adapt and change? If we adapt, we needs must change, otherwise there would be no adaption. Anyway, I don't want to drive you crazy, please accept my upvote! – Pedroski Apr 23 '15 at 7:20
  • @Pedroski Yes, 应变 is just a short form of 适应变化, means adapt to the change, but not adapt and then change. I've edited my post, could you get it now? – user4072 Apr 23 '15 at 7:30
  • Thanks again. I always read your answers to questions when I am online here, because you are good at explaining. My Chinese is not good. I do not yet have a 'feeling' for the language, so I have to rely on dictionaries, which are often not good. Asking around, I seem to understand that we might translate '应变能力、适应能力‘ as 'ability to adapt and survive'. Could that fit the Chinese meaning? – Pedroski Apr 23 '15 at 10:52
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in fact 应变 is the combinaison of 应 and 变.

  • 应 means 应付 which means: deal with, manage

  • 变 means 变化 which means: change

And 适应 just means adapt.

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    to expand on this a bit, 应变 refers to whether you're "quick on your toes", in a tactical sense,, while 适应 refers to your ability to adjust/adapt to bigger picture changes in the environment. – Master Sparkles Jul 8 '15 at 20:58
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最重要的武器是应变能力、适应能力和创新能力

This is not a good composition because here 应变能力 and 适应能力 have exactly the same meaning.

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  • That's what I was thinking. I find Chinese often doubles up with words which mean the same or very similar. That seems to be a feature of Chinese. In the end I suppose, we can only ask the author, if we could find him or her, what he meant and how he meant it. – Pedroski Apr 24 '15 at 23:06
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應變 is a response to an emergency, or something unexpected, as in 中央災害應變中心 National Disaster Response Center. 變 here is not 變化, but 事變. 應變能力 is emergency or incident response capability. One sees this in cyber security a lot, also in the American FEMA agency. It has nothing to do with "adaptation".

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I think the catch here is the 'time frame' of the changes:

Take your sentence, 在未来十年的商战中,最重要的武器是应变能力、适应能力, and some examples:

case 1:

Assume the company never used the new cloud service - everyone's saving stuff on their local computer. The new cloud service will be introduced to the company, where everyone has a chance to start learning about it. In this case, your capability to adapt the changes - 适应能力 - is required. You are not required to act immediately, but to slowly adjust to the new system.

Case 2:

Assume the company is a logistic company, where a huge shipment being delivered is lost due to an accident happened last night. You, as the manager, has to prepare the shipment from another office, thus fulfilling the delivery. In this case, your 应变能力 is required. You have to act/ react immediately.

Both cases describe a changes where one happens over the years and the other one happens all of a sudden.

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应变能力 and 适应能力 look similar, but they do not have the same meaning. 适应 has to do with adapting to a more or less static environment, for example, if you move from one part of the world to another, you need to adapt to the climate of your new home and you need 适应能力. 应变, on the other hand, introduces an element of unexpectedness. 应变能力 is your ability to react/ respond to (usually unexpected) change in the environment. In your example sentence, the company needs both 应变能力 and 适应能力.

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  • agree. So a job at a multinational that involves overseas positions would require 适应能力, whilst a job as a movie producer, with all of the random logistical challenges that might crop up, would require 应变能力. – Master Sparkles Jul 9 '15 at 1:43
  • @MasterSparkles I think so. Good examples. – monalisa Jul 9 '15 at 4:02

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