PRISM Blog

THE DYNAMIC INTERSECTION OF LEARNING AGILITY AND ORGANISATIONAL INNOVATION

How to Navigate Change for Sustainable Growth

Today’s ultra-competitive environment rewards rapid change and severely punishes inaction. Change and adaptation to change have become imperative for survival and their acceleration a real factor of success.

To paraphrase Charles Darwin: “In a constantly changing world, it is not the strongest or the fastest who survive best, but those who adapt the fastest.”

This principle can be transposed to the professional world. It translates into the company’s ability to constantly learn and relearn to quickly adapt to the volatile demands of its environment.
It’s not just about changing standard operating procedures, but also having the ability to respond with more flexibility and more agility to the change itself.

Any change requires awareness of the need to change, accompanied by a strong motivation to learn new things. These two conditions must be supplemented by the repetitive practice of new cognitive-behavioural patterns while constantly reflecting on the relevance of skills and competencies acquired and the need to adjust them, or even develop new ones. This process is called LEARNING AGILITY.

WHAT IS LEARNING AGILITY?

Learning agility is an innovative approach to education and professional development that calls for flexibility, adaptability and collaboration. Inspired by the principles of agile software development, learning agility emphasizes iterative and incremental progress, continuous feedback, and a learner-centred approach to knowledge acquisition and skill development.

In essence, learning agility is a meta-concept that reflects the constellation of an individual’s cognitive abilities and behavioural predispositions. This concept concerns the ability which defines the speed of a person to grasp something completely new.

More simply, learning agility can be defined as the ability to continually learn, unlearn
and relearn, in response to changing circumstances.

HOW TO RECOGNISE AGILE LEARNERS?

It has long been recognised that one of the key differences between successful people and those whose careers falter is their ability to make meaning of their experiences. Leaders who refuse to let go of entrenched patterns of behaviour tend to get derailed, while successful leaders demonstrate the willingness and ability to adapt and learn throughout their careers and even their lives.

Learning agility requires learning potential and therefore an open and receptive state of mind the growth mindset, also learning motivation, and, finally, a capacity to adapt to learning.

Neuroplasticity shows us that we are all capable of adapting, and better yet we can all develop learning agility if we have the motivation to think outside the box, try new things and learn from them.

People who demonstrate learning agility have four common traits:

  • They are critical thinkers who examine problems carefully and make new connections with relative ease.
  • They know themselves well, exploit their strengths effectively and know how to compensate for their weaknesses.
  • They like to experiment and are comfortable with the discomfort of change.
  • They achieve results effectively thanks to their personal motivation and cooperation with others.

Behavioural diagnostic tools based on neuroscientific principles such as PRISM BRAIN MAPPING are able to reliably identify the key characteristics of agile learners and measure them precisely.

  1. Agility To Change: Adapt to changing situations, manage difficulties and behave proactively in a dynamic environment – measures creativity, innovation management, external sensitivity, flexibility and vision.
  2. Relational Agility: Manage the diversity of people, communicate effectively while adapting to their different contexts – measures people development, diversity management, team building, conflict management and political astuteness.
  3. Results Agility: Learn quickly from new experiences and deliver high-quality results in new situations and under pressure – measures responsibility, problem solving, drive to achieve results, self-confidence and trust in others.
  4. Mental Agility: Effectively handle complex tasks using effective decision-making and strategic thinking skills – measures critical thinking, strategic orientation, openness to learning, resource management, ambiguity and attention to detail.
  5. Self-awareness: To achieve true learning agility, everyone must have a realistic view of their strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement. This is called self-awareness, a key factor in emotional intelligence. People with high levels of self-awareness are drawn to self-improvement and are eager to deepen their understanding of themselves and the world around them.

Each of these characteristics provides insight into the type of behaviours and actions that characterise people with high learning agility. These people are always looking for growth opportunities and can process these opportunities in order to learn. They are open to new experiences, seek challenges, and are willing to introduce new ideas and challenge “norms.” Additionally, they can stay present in difficult situations, performing well and adapting as they go.

HOW TO MAKE LEARNING AGILITY A REAL LEVER FOR GROWTH?

Learning agility has a significant impact on business performance and competitiveness. First, it allows you to respond more quickly to market changes. Second, it allows you to develop new skills and adapt to new challenges, which helps you stand out from the competition. And finally, learning agility helps reduce costs and improve efficiency.

Laszlo Bock, former Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google, agrees. He said that at Google, learning agility is considered

“the leading predictor of success
in the future.”

In this sense, organisational culture plays a crucial role in the development of learning agility. It’s not just a matter of adding training to a catalogue or organising a start-up competition, the kind of initiatives that the majority of companies are happy with. But rather, to invest in a much more global concept which makes it possible to establish an inclusive, agile culture promoting diversity, sharing and continuous learning and stimulating innovation and creativity.

An agile corporate culture is essentially based on three key pillars:

  1. Transparency which promotes trust and saves time by avoiding presumptions.
  2. Empowerment which pushes employees to act in a self-determined way, to be creative and creative.
  3. Collaboration which relies on a network of people who inspire, encourage and support each other.

It is the responsibility of human resources to evolve the organisational culture to make it a lever for learning agility. HR must mobilise teams around common values while adopting flexible practices that promote collaboration and innovation and increase employee autonomy and engagement.

Agile culture cannot be decreed, it must be lived. It is a state of mind that allows us to welcome practices that promote agility. The creators of agility have also sought to identify observable operational practices which, through their implementation, lead to the emergence of an agile culture.

“To succeed in today’s complex business world, individuals, leaders and organizations must demonstrate adaptability, resilience and openness to innovative thinking. And above all, they must possess one essential quality: learning agility” – Steve Newhall – Korn Ferry’s

By investing in learning agility, companies can strengthen their ability to adapt, innovate, and perform in a constantly changing business environment.

HOW TO DEVELOP LEARNING AGILITY?

Learning agility is reinforced by three types of behaviours:

  • Research – seeking new learning opportunities and new ways of doing things, especially in areas where success is uncertain.
  • Performing – being able to manage oneself in difficult situations and deal with new situations in a way that maximizes performance.
  • Reflection – reflection on lived experiences in order to bring out essential information.

However, there are also potential behavioural factors that may limit an individual’s ability to perform the above:
Risk aversion, which prevents an individual from seeking new opportunities that may guarantee success but ultimately inhibit learning; and defensiveness, which prevents the individual from effectively handling new situations or which biases the way the individual perceives past experiences.

For learning agility to be effective, all the conditions described above must be met within the organizational culture. In other words, the individual behaviours (key characteristics) described in the previous paragraph must also manifest themselves in the culture of the organization.

In today’s economic climate, business leaders need to demonstrate mental agility more than ever. Organizations must be flexible and responsive to survive in a VUCA environment. This requires a culture of innovation and adaptation which ensures the agility of the organization. Companies must keep an eye on the outside world and be able to constantly reinvent themselves.

Invest in initiatives and leverage neuroscience-based tools like PRISM to recognise and unlock the learning agility of your teams. Contact us today for a free demo

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NATO Joint Warfare Centre Stavanger
Major General Roger Lane CBE FCMI
Senior EXON Adviser

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