Learning agility is a relatively new concept but is taking storm in leadership and talent identification and development. We were lucky enough to have Organisational Psychologist Gene Johnson deliver a breakfast seminar for us this week in Manchester.
The favoured definition of learning agility is Korn/Ferry’s which states it is a ‘willingness and ability to learn the right lessons from experience, and apply those lessons on other new situations. Knowing what to do when one doesn’t know what to do’.
The comparisons between traditional learning and agile learning are compelling and challenge current thinking. Traditional learning is about IQ, grades and straightforward problem solving. Agile learning requires quick thinking, initiative and the ability to admit strengths and weaknesses. There is also a school of thought that says multi-tasking goes against agile learning.

The Korn/Ferry Institute model measures 5 factors – mental agility, people agility, self-awareness, results agility and change agility. So how would you go about identifying learning agility in your high-potential population? They should be comfortable with ambiguity and complexity, find solutions to tough problems, be naturally curious and well read. They are self-aware, seek feedback, and are skilled communicators and conflict managers. They are accountable, lead change, love experimenting and are never satisfied. Finally, they have tremendous drive, personal presence, adaptability, flexibility, resilience, resourcefulness and beat the odds.

Listening to Gene give examples and case studies of learning agility, you can’t help but apply it to yourself, trying to smooth out the edges like play-dough so you can fit neatly into the boxes. He also gives us a list questions which if answered all to the right means you are learning agile! But can it be learned or is it innate?

‘It depends’ is the answer.

Gene does highlight that this it is just one approach, one school of thought. It makes sense for it be used in conjunction with other tools for talent or leadership identification and development.

If you are interested in knowing more, Gene will be presenting in London early 2014. Please get in touch with Angela Franks for more information – [email protected]

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