To outperform, build learning agility

Organizational agility is a competitive advantage. It helps keep up with present-day transitions and complexities. But for organizations to be agile, their leaders need to develop this trait. What do agile leaders look like? Karl Moore describes that they:

  • Are creative thinkers with a sense of purpose;
  • Move into action and make decisions;
  • Actively engage diverse stakeholders;
  • Face challenges and solve problems.

But not all of us possess these skills at the beginning of our careers. Some develop agility while working. And this brings us to a related aspect: learning agility. It’s a complex set of skills that allows us to learn something in one situation, and apply it in another. Gather patterns from one context and use them elsewhere. Leaders who can do this, get promoted twice as much, are five times more engaged with their work, and lead their companies to have 25% higher profit margins.

Here are five dimensions you can focus on, to be learning agile:

  1. Mental agility. This refers to cultivating a mind that acts as a sponge – seeking new, diverse experiences, with the goal of being resourceful. It’s about keeping our mind on its toes, and clear of clutter. Or giving it the benefits gained from daily walks or ample sleep. This form of agility supports creative problem-solving.
  2. People agility. This involves the relationship management aspect of emotional intelligence: seeking perspectives different from ours, understanding differences, leaning into stress, and learning to resolve conflict. The key here: seek feedback, find strengths in others, and leverage it for a win-win.
  3. Change agility. With a willingness to fail, change agility is about taking the first steps to try out something new. Make prototypes. Try and stumble. Reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Try again. All of this starts with setting clear, exciting goals, and following it up with a range of action steps.
  4. Results agility. Inspire people to strive for results in new situations. Lou Gerstner, ex-CEO of IBM demonstrated this well. One of his employees, a fresh MBA, lost $ 2-million while managing a business venture. Gerstner invited him for a meeting, which the employee started by saying, “I’m assuming you want my resignation.” Gerstner’s response – “I just invested 2 million dollars in your education. I don’t want you to quit. I want to know what you learned. And then try it again.”
  5. Self-awareness. Be clear about what you excel at, when you can trust your instincts and abilities, and when you need to rely on others. This requires a keen knowledge of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. And an ability to exercise self-control or your willpower. Research by Cornell University marks this as the most sought-after skill.

Learning agility may seem complex with detailed nuances, but the end result is promising for your leadership. Explore it now.

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