Learning About Learning AgilityAre you open to new ways of thinking? Do you continuously learn new skills? Or do you struggle when it’s time to do things differently?

CCL research has long shown that successful leaders continue to develop on the job. But the willingness and ability to learn throughout one’s career appears to be increasingly important as changing technology, markets and methods require new skills and behaviors. What is needed to succeed at one level or in one setting does not necessarily translate to another.

In fact, over the long term, your current skill-set is of secondary importance to your ability to learn new knowledge, skills and behaviors that will equip you to respond to future challenges.

So how do you gauge your level of learning agility? What does it take to be an agile learner?

In a new CCL white paper, Learning About Learning Agility, Adam Mitchinson and Robert Morris, Ph.D., of the Teachers College, Columbia University, describe five facets of learning agility:

  1. Innovating: Agile learners are not afraid to challenge the status quo.
  2. Performing: Agile learners remain calm in the face of difficulty.
  3. Reflecting: Agile learners take time to reflect on their experiences.
  4. Risking: Agile learners purposefully put themselves in challenging situations.
  5. Defending: Agile learners are simply open to learning and resist the temptation to become defensive in the face of adversity.

The first four facets enable one’s learning agility and the fifth frustrates or impedes it.

Mitchinson, Morris and their research team at Teachers College developed the Learning Agility Assessment Inventory (LAAI) to measure these five main facets of learning-agile behavior. To get a good sense of your personal learning agility, consider your behaviors in the same five categories:

Innovate Challenge the status quo in an attempt to make improvements? Experiment with new ideas and endeavor to find the best solution to each individual problem? OR Try to achieve the best with what I have at my disposal? Choose the most readily available solution and move on to the next challenge?
Perform Pick up on subtle cues to build a better understanding of the problem? Stay calm when faced with a challenge or stressful situation? OR Trust my intuition to guide me to a solution? Use stress as energy to get things done more quickly?
Reflect Make time to critically reflect on my experiences? Examine past failures for lessons? OR Move quickly from one task to another in order to accomplish more? Put failure quickly behind me in order to focus on the next challenge?
Take Risks Volunteer for roles that are ambiguous, new or otherwise challenging? Take enjoyment from struggling with a challenging problem? OR Take on challenges where I know I can be successful? Take enjoyment from managing a well-oiled machine?
Defend Consider my personal role in both successes and failures? Seek feedback because I need it? OR Take credit for success and quickly make excuses for failure? Listen to feedback because others want to give it?

When you read the above statements, which side of the line seems to describe you better? If you identify with the statements on the left, you may already embody many of the components of learning agility. If you fall on the right, you’ve got room for improvement where learning is concerned.

This article is adapted from Learning About Learning Agility, a CCL white paper by Adam Mitchinson and Robert Morris, Ph.D. Contributors: W. Warner Burke, Ph.D. & Doctoral Research Group, Phillip Braddy, Ph.D., Michael Campbell, William Pasmore, Ph.D.

Next month: Tips for Improving Your Learning Agility

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