We are currently living and working in a rapidly changing world where we need to possess the capacity for rapid and continuous learning to stay relevant.
It has been the pitfall of many notable industry players who, in their time, never imagined nor anticipated the rise of disruptive technologies thus leaving them unprepared and unable to keep up with their faster and more agile competition.
Similarly, if we do not realise this for ourselves, we may find ourselves become irrelevant very quickly. As David Peterson, director of executive coaching and leadership at Google puts it, “Staying within your comfort zone is a good way to prepare for today, but it’s a terrible way to prepare for tomorrow.” In order to sustain success, you must develop learning agility.
Agile learners are people who value and derive satisfaction from the process of learning itself, which boosts their motivation as well as their capacity to learn from various experiences.
They with this mindset tend to be oriented toward learning goals and open to new experiences. They are usually good at making connections across experiences, and are able to let go of perspectives or approaches that are no longer useful — in other words, they can unlearn things when novel solutions are required.
They experiment, seek feedback, and reflect systematically. As a result, they don’t get defensive and they’re willing to take risks, such as making a mistake or appearing non-expert in public.
Here’s 3 things you can practice to learn and start developing your learning agility:
1. Ask for feedback
Think of one or more people who interacted with you or observed your performance on a given task. Tell them you’d value their perspective on how you did, and ask what you could do differently the next time.
To maximise learning from their feedback — and this is vital — restrain any urge to defend yourself. Thank them for their input, and then ask yourself what you can learn.
To help reduce your defensiveness and develop a learning mindset, telling yourself that perhaps there is a better way of doing things but you do not know it yet. Research on growth mindset by psychologist Carol Dweck has found that if you hold the view that there is always more to learn and embrace the process of wading into unfamiliar waters, you can free your thinking, dissolve your fear of failure, and power your success.
2. Experiment with new approaches or behaviours.
To identify new behaviours for testing, try reflecting on a challenge you’re facing and asking yourself questions such as “What’s one thing I could do to change the outcome of the situation?” and “What will I do differently in the future?”
3. Make time for reflection.
A growing body of research shows that systematically reflecting on work experiences boosts learning significantly. To ensure continuous progress, get into the habit of asking yourself questions like “What have I learned from this experience?” and “What turned out differently than I expected?”.
Leaders who demonstrate and encourage reflection not only learn more themselves, they also spur increased contextual awareness and reflective practice in others, thereby laying a foundation for higher levels of learning agility in their teams and organisations.
Practicing these strategies will help you extract the maximum learning from experience. However do remember that in order to develop your learning agility effectivley, you must learn how to recognise and be willing to change your automatic routines.
This article was inspired by Havard Business Review’s ‘4 Ways To Become A Better Learner’ by Monique Valcour. Monique is an executive coach, keynote speaker, and management professor. She helps clients create and sustain fulfilling and high-performance jobs, careers, workplaces, and lives.