Life satisfaction and career success during periods of disruption, rapid change and constant, unpredictable challenges requires learning agility.
Agile learners adapt. They welcome change. They are curious about what is possible. They are eager learners and live life defined by growth. They are intentional about developing skills to help them to navigate change and ambiguity.
Their curiosity is responsible for development of new skills and knowledge which they integrate with past experience and apply to navigate new conditions.
They seek experiences and learning opportunities to gain new knowledge and skills and can quickly apply them to new challenges and complex problems with an ability to view them from multiple perspectives.
Learning Agility Characterized
Agile learners are self-aware, open to new experiences, self-motivated to learn and intentional about learning the most from their experiences.
Not only are they curious but they adapt their thinking and behavior in response to their evolving understanding of the situations in which they find themselves.
They are committed to personal growth, courageously take risks, and confidently evaluate setbacks, mistakes and misunderstanding.
They are diligent about seeking feedback and intentional about learning.
Individuals high in learning agility are describe to:
1. Seek diverse experiences to learn from,
2. Enjoy complex problems and challenges associated with new experiences,
3. Pull the most from their experiences because they have an interest in making sense of them, and
4. Perform better and navigate complexity because they incorporate new skills into their repertoire as a result.
Given the link between these characteristics and adaptability, it is not surprising to find that individuals high in learning agility tend to be sought after for their opinion and input, they get hired faster and promoted consistently and are effective and successful leaders.
Learning Agility as a Measure of Leadership Success
Identifying individuals willing to learn new leadership behaviors for the future, particularly during times of radical change, is imperative for the continued success of any business or organization. It is not enough to have had previous success. Past success is not a predictor of future success during rapid change and disruption.
A study conducted by The Center for Creative Leadership found that successful executives are those who tend to be open to and are willing to adopt new perspectives and behaviors from both work and life experiences.
While derailed executives, all of whom had several years of prior success and interesting life and career experiences, demonstrated no evolution of perspective. They went to their old tool box to solve new challenges.
Leaders whose careers were derailed saw no need or interest to change their behavior, process of decision making or beliefs and therefore couldn’t make successful transition during disruption and rapid change. In relying on the skills, beliefs and pattern of thinking that brought them career success in the past they ignored changes on new environments. They became victims of their past success.
It’s safe to say then, that learning agility is a predictor of leadership success and is an important factor in selecting individuals for promotion or for more challenging positions and assignments.
Agile Learners Described
As leaders, agile learners are curios. They can be described as:
- Eager to learn about self, others, and new ideas.
- Genuinely willing to learn from other people’s experience, knowledge and expertise. And are open to change their behavior and perspective as a result.
- Interested in helping people think differently and encourage experimentation.
- Calm, pragmatic, resilient and philosophical.
- Considerate of how change impacts others and the collective.
- Persistent. While open to diversity of thought, perspective and points of views, once they incorporate these into their thinking, they are resolute in advancing their ideas of what they believe to be best for all concerned. They rely on logic, well thought through ideas, calm communication, and perseverance to sell their points.
Developing learning agility includes self-awareness, learning how to seek out and use feedback, choosing developmental experiences and assignments, and developing a deliberate learning strategy.
Develop a bias toward curiosity, seek challenges, and push yourself out of your comfort zone even though it may shake your confidence if you’re accustomed to success.
It is human nature to keep doing what we already know how to do. When we do so, we feel competent and confident. We’ve been conditioned to always get things correct. We’ve been conditioned to believe that not getting things right is humiliating and painful. We’ve been conditioned to ask for the rules, ask for the correct answers and play them back.
But during disruption and change the rules change, the answers are different and sometimes no one knows what either are.
To change with change, to navigate disruption means we must take on something new and different, and possibly fail in our first attempt. It means we must be open to and welcome discomfort. The agile learner is comfortable feeling uncomfortable. They are confident that their curiosity, eagerness to learn and openness to new ideas and opinions mean they will encounter success, even after missteps.
If you’ve sought the rules for life and career advancement, focused more on the status quo, sustaining performance and quickly finding normal, it is time to rethink your strategy.
The purpose of being learning agile is to be able to adapt during disruption, be open to see new opportunities in complex problems, see a new way of looking at an old method and expand ideas of what is possible.
It requires pulling the meaning out of unique experiences and marrying different concepts to create an innovative idea.
The one thing that is constant is change. And one big lesson from this year so far is that change in the form of disruption can happen without much warning. But it is the learning agile who navigate such periods not only with a positive perspective but with an enthusiasm to discover what is possible, what’s next and how life will improve.
One principle of living a positively successful life is lifelong learning and the benefit is learning agility. The ability to change with change. To be resilient in the face of change. An eagerness to create something better. That’s the power that lies in the skill of being learning agile.
It is a mindset. Not only does it ensure an inspired life but also career success. Companies are putting their future success in the hands of agile learners.