The Value of Learning Agility

It is Learning at Work week from 14th May which aims to put a spotlight on the importance and benefits of learning and development at work. Whether in work, seeking work, self-employed or retired the benefits of lifelong learning are well known.

To succeed in a complex business environment, workers must be adaptable, resilient and open to innovative thinking. You can’t rely on what worked in the past as disruptive technologies, changing consumer demands and socio-economic developments mean we all need to be adaptable and versatile.

Learning agility is the ability to learn, adapt, and apply ourselves in a constantly changing environment. It’s a complex set of skills that enables us to learn something from one situation and apply it to a completely different situation.

Speed and Flexibility

Researcher Scott DeRue of the University of Michigan established a model that identifies speed and flexibility as the two most important factors determining learning agility. Learning agility is about being able to digest a large amount of information quickly (speed) and figure out what is most important. DeRue also said you need to be able to change frameworks (flexibility) that help you understand how different things are related or connected.

Research by Korn Ferry shows that learning agile people are highly promotable. Those high in learning agility received twice as many promotions over the 10-year period as those low in learning agility. A second analysis found that learning agility accounted for up to 18% of why a person was promoted more frequently than others, even after controlling for gender or education level.

There are five dimensions crucial to becoming learning agile:

  • Mental agility: critical thinking to comprehend complex problems and explore possibilities by making fresh connections.
  • People agility: understanding and relating to others, as well as tough situations to harness and optimise collective performance.
  • Change agility: enjoying experimentation, being curious, willing to take a risk and effectively dealing with the discomfort of change.
  • Results agility: delivering results by inspiring the team, and exhibiting a presence that builds self-confidence in self and others.
  • Self-awareness: reflective and with a good understanding of your capabilities and impact on others.

Challenge and Curiosity

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, exemplifies learning agility. His biggest motivation is to keep challenging himself: “I see life almost like one long university education that I never had”.

Those with high learning agility are curious and actively seek out experiences to learn from; enjoying the complex problems and challenges associated with those new experiences and applying their learning from them rapidly.

The willingness and ability to learn from experience influences not only the extent of our personal development but also how we are perceived by others. In essence, the ability to continuously learn and adapt determines the extent to which we will thrive in today’s turbulent times.

To talk to us more about Learning & Development for yourself or your team please contact us on 0333 240 8115 or email


Posted: Wednesday 16 May 2018

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