Setting the stage
Think about the job or role you're in today. Is the work the same as when you started? About as complex, about as many moving parts as before? Is everything crystal clear about what’s expected of you now and in the future? No uncertainty? Nothing ambiguous?
If you answered no to most or all of these questions you’re not alone. Scanning global work landscape—where external forces like rampant globalization, disruptive technologies, and world financial uncertainties are pressing on business strategies—it seems clear that the era of job stability and predictability is over. What has become the norm is the need to acquire new skills, all the time.
It’s not just that jobs are getting more demanding in this new Era of Complexity. Leaders are also moving into bigger roles sooner than they used to, a trend we see at every job level. The Conference Board, for instance, published a 2010 report showing that incoming CEOs in the S&P 500 were, on average, two years younger than their predecessors had been.
Simply put, we’re not getting enough time on the job to build the more complex skills, particularly those related to strategy and getting work done through others. This skill gap, which is especially problematic for those in leadership roles, shows no sign of closing.
So how can you arm yourself to successfully tackle those new situations, assignments, or challenges that that are bound to come your way? Through learning. And not just any learning, but learning from your experiences. How? By reflecting and harvesting meaning, or lessons, from each experience you have. By making sense of them and distilling them down to rules of thumb or principles. When you are faced with new and possibly tough situations, those lessons manifest as varied approaches, ideas, solutions, techniques—a treasure trove of options for you to choose from, depending on what the particular challenge calls for.
There is a name for this ability to learn from experience in a consistent, systematic way and then apply that learning in new situations. It’s called Learning Agility.
Learning Agility isn’t an abstract concept or philosphy. It’s a concrete set of behaviors and preferences that is demonstrated both in how we go about our work and the choices we make on and off the job. Not only can you spot these behaviors, you can also choose to develop these qualities in yourself and help build them in others.
Stay tuned for more posts on how Learning Agility manifests in all sorts of leaders, how to recognize the qualities of agile learning in yourself and others, and how to build this critical skill. Learning Agility move individuals from “survival mode” to thriving mode—so that in work and life you will know what to do…when you don’t know what to do.