Leadership development: Learning Agility

February 11, 2015 by Wally Bock

In their paper, “Learning Agility: A Construct Whose Time has Come,” Kenneth P. De Meuse, Guangrong Dai, and George S. Hallenbeck, of Korn Ferry summarize their case this way.

“The willingness and capability to learn from experience and subsequently to apply that learning to perform successfully under new or first-time conditions becomes one of the most critical success factors for managers and executives.”

That makes sense to me. The question is, “How do we teach it to developing leaders.”

Different views of learning agility and leadership development

We all seem to know what “learning agility” is. The differences show up when we talk about applying it to leadership development. Kevin Cashman of Korn Ferry suggests we look at “The Five Dimensions Of Learning-Agile Leaders.” Adam Mitchinson and Robert Morris describe five facets of learning agility in their Center for Creative Leadership white paper: “Learning about Learning Agility.”

I like the number five, too. Here are the five steps in my “Learning Agility Cycle.”

Teach the Learning Agility Cycle in Leadership Development

I’d rather teach a process than dimensions or facts. You can apply a process right away.

Stop and look

You’re in a new situation. The first thing you have to do is stop and orient yourself to the terrain and the challenges.

Determine what’s important

There are lots of things you could address and many things you can learn that will help. What are the most important ones? What should you learn about right away?

Decide how you’ll learn

There are plenty of ways to learn. There’s reading and courses and people and experiences. Pick the ones you think will work best for you in this situation.

Learn what you need as fast as you can

Dig in, start learning before you have the perfect learning plan. You’ll discover gaps as you go.

Try what you learn and adjust

You will almost certainly get some of it wrong. That’s why you need to put learning into practice quickly. Adjust your targets and learning process as needed.

Wally Bock is a coach, a writer and President of Three Star Leadership.

Posted in Leadership Development

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