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Learning Agility is a skill. It is the most important skill needed to succeed in a career or business. If you search the term ‘learning agility,’ you will come across posts proclaiming that ‘learning agility is key for leadership success’ or ‘learning agility is the defining feature of high potential.’
But if you are just starting your career, ‘leadership’ or ‘high potential’ is not exactly on your to-do-list for the next few years. Then does the term ‘learning agility’ mean anything to you? Well, if it doesn’t, it’s a big problem!
If you are not learning agile, your chances of succeeding at your job or in your business are quite narrow, even if you are a fresher and starting your career.
Importance of Learning Agility is exemplified by management consultants who must understand and develop expertise in any industry in a matter of days and then advise people who have been working in that industry for decades on how to solve business challenges and meet business goals.
Lack of Learning Agility can end careers. For example, when a journalist is asked to stop writing news articles on current events and instead start writing blogs, considering search engine optimizations, keyword usage, and ranking, he/she is basically being asked to develop an entirely new mindset and way of writing, more suited for the digital media and Millennials. He /She is expected to forget his/her old ways and mold their writing acumen to suit the current media demands. A Learning Agile person will look at this situation as an opportunity to up-skill themselves in SEO, blog writing, Google Ad Words, etc. whereas a non-Learning Agile person will struggle to stay relevant in the digital media space with their old skills, eventually succumbing to their lack of Learning Agility and failing.
Now some of us are naturally learning agile and adopt smarter and more effective ways of completing our work tasks without even realizing it. But if ‘learning’ or ‘change’ is something that lies outside your comfort zone, its time for some self-reflection.
In this blog, we throw light on key cognitive and behavioral competencies that are needed for a person to be defined as ‘highly learning agile.’
Learning Agility is the ability to continually and rapidly learn, unlearn, and relearn mental models and practices from a variety of experiences, people, and sources, and to apply that learning in new and changing contexts to achieve desired results.
Learning Agility of a person depends on two components:
These are the competencies that determine if a person has low, medium, or high learning agility.
But there can be a debate if ‘ability’ supersedes ‘intent’ or vice versa. To make it crystal clear, we have categorized the competencies needed to be learning agile in a three-tiered model.
This model of Learning agility is based on the extensive research which includes a review of literature from peer-reviewed journals as well as qualitative data collection and interviews from subject matter experts (SMEs). The Mettl learning agility model is a three-stage model where competencies are divided into the core, primary, and secondary competencies. The model, competencies, and its definitions are mentioned below:
As per this model, fluid intelligence is the core element of learning agility. Individuals scoring high on fluid intelligence can quickly identify patterns, logical rules, and trends in new data, integrate this information and apply it as per the requirement.
Primary elements of this model include inquisitiveness, open-mindedness, and drive for mastery. Being Inquisitive determine the extent to which individuals are broad-minded, curious, imaginative, and original. Similarly, open-minded individuals actively seek out new and varied experiences and ideas and are generally more receptive to learn something new. Lastly, drive for mastery represents a fervent approach to gain in-depth knowledge and an ardent desire to become a subject matter expert in one’s area of learning.
This model also includes perseverance and organization as secondary but essential elements of learning agility model. People who are high on focus and determination, they learn quicker than others. They prioritize and act. Being high on planning and organization facilitates quick learning because it helps an individual to develop a framework or strategy to accomplish the learning tasks/goals. A high score on focus and planning results in the use of the appropriate strategies and resources to maximize learning.
Based on the Mettl Learning Agility Model, you can determine your level of learning agility. But it is important to determine if your learning agility demand matches that of your job role. Organizations need to measure their employees learning agility levels to determine if they are a perfect fit for their present jobs and what future roles they can take up.
To determine how much learning agility any job role demands, we have created the ‘Mettl Learning Agility Matrix’ that determines the learning agility demand of any job role based on industry volatility and job role novelty.
By accurately measuring the learning agility level of employees and the learning agility demanded by their job roles, companies can improve and leverage the learning agility of their workforce to achieve business success in the present and be well prepared to face the future.
You may also want to read: Learning Agility: How to Measure it?
At Mercer I Mettl, our mission is to enable organizations to build winning teams by making credible people decisions across two key areas: Acquisition and Development. Since our inception in 2009, we have partnered with 2900+ corporates, 31 sector skill councils/government departments, and 15+ educational institutions across 90+ countries.
Mettl was acquired by Mercer in 2018, Mercer, a global leader in redefining the world of work, reshaping retirement and investment outcomes, and unlocking real health and well-being, and a business of Marsh & McLennan (NYSE: MMC).
Originally published February 20 2019, Updated June 16 2020