Why ‘Learning Agility’ is Key to Survive in Today’s Business World


In today’s complex business world, we can no longer rely on strategies that have worked in the past. Nowadays, the business world needs more people who thrive on change and can make sense of uncertainty. 

I’ve just worked in a unicorn startup company in Indonesia, where changes are always almost happening in many aspects of the business every time, and I’ve learned that there is the main key to achieve success in today’s kinetic business environment; learning agility.

According to the research team at Teachers College, Columbia University, learning agility is a mindset and corresponding collection of practices that allow us to continually develop, grow, and utilize new strategies that will equip us for the complex problems in our organizations. 

People who are learning agile have the willingness to learn from experience and then apply that learning to perform successfully in a completely new situation in their organizations.

Simply put, a learning-agile individual is someone who has the ability to learn new things and easily adapt to changes and make the most of it.

Based on the Korn Ferry research, learning agility is now the single best predictor of executive success, even above intelligence and education. The people who are agile learners tend to get promoted faster and achieve more as they tend to be more social, creative, focused and resilient. 

On the other hand, people who don’t possess learning agility tend to derail their success because they over-rely on past solutions, ignorance to their own faults and feedbacks, or simply quit learning.

Everyone is potential to be a learning-agile person since it is an ability which could be developed over time. According to the Learning Agility Assessment Inventory (LAAI) which has developed by the research team at Columbia University, there are four facets that enable one’s learning agility;

1. Innovating

People who are questioning many things, challenging the status quo, and trying to explore countless new ways of doing things tend to be the strong agile individuals. When being confronted with new experiences or obstacles, someone who is learning-agile will generate new ideas and view the issues from multiple angles. 

For each problem you’ll face, try to challenge yourself to come up with new solutions. Try to make a breakthrough and believe that by trying out new approaches, you can uncover ways of doing things more effectively.

2. Performing

When being faced with unfamiliar challenges, people with learning agility will able to remain present and engaged. They will able to handling the stress by adapting quickly and perform. They are not only having excellent observation and listening skills, but also the ability to process data immediately. 

You can start by asking questions to understand rather than always trying to be understood and when you’re facing a new challenge, try to look for similarities from the past and frame it to the new situations.

3. Reflecting

People with learning agility will seek feedback and evaluate themselves every once in a while. They understand that what they’ve done were not always the right thing to do and they spend focused energy to process the feedback in order to understand better about their assumptions and behaviors. 

From now on, find someone who you trust and ask them to give you open and honest feedback. Try not to deny the feedback and ask them to always remind you every time you’ll tend to relapse in your old bad habits.

4. Risking

A comfort zone is not something familiar to people with learning agility as they will always involve themselves out there to try new things. As described by the research team, learning-agile individuals are adventurous and comfortable with the progressive risk that leads to opportunity. 

They are not afraid of failures as they see mistakes as a lesson learned. If you want to be a learning-agile individual, try to take on a new challenge that scares you but develop your actualization as well. Be brave of doing something new and be resilient of facing obstacles and setbacks.



Other than those four facets of a learning-agile person, there is one facet that will be a ‘derailer’ of learning agility. This facet is avoiding someone for being a learning-agile person, which is defending

People who are not learning-agile tend to remain closed or being defensive when challenged or given critical feedback. They are not seeking feedback and failing to adapt to a new situation or problem. One thing to avoid this facet is changing your perspective on the feedback. Try to see feedback as a gift even though you may not like it and try to resist the temptation to respond to feedback, especially at first.

In the end, learning agility is not only for those people who are working in the business world as all of us need to be learning-agile individuals. Learning agility will extensively help us to face new challenges, problems, and issues as it is something that leads us to continually learn and adapt in today’s complex world. 

We can all endeavor to be more learning agile as long as we allow ourselves to innovate and be brave about getting out from a comfort zone, perform while ensuring to always reflect in ourselves, and always view those critics as a gift instead of defending it.

Always remember that you can learn great things from your mistakes when you’re not busy denying them.


Featured image via chapterfriday

Originally published at Thrive Global (March 15th, 2018)

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