E•A•S•I-Consult® has spent the last two years developing a suite of tests that measure learning agility, and we think we have all the bases covered.

We started with the Burke Learning Agility Inventory® (LAI) Standard, which gave the test-taker feedback for each of the nine dimensions on the Burke Learning Agility Inventory. Pepsi told us, “Good test, but the report is a little thin.”

That led us to the Burke LAI Expanded version, in which the test taker receives feedback at the dimension and item level. Of course, there were those skeptics that thought the test-takers would inflate their ratings. (To be honest, I had those concerns, as well). But, to date, the results show a normal distribution for all the people who have currently taken the Burke Self versions.  If people were inflating their ratings, you would not get a normal distribution.

Some organizations started using the Burke as part of their succession planning efforts. For places that use the 9 Box approach, the Burke results can inform the “potential” side of the matrix.

Of course, there were those who questioned an individual’s rating of themselves. This led us to introduce the Burke Learning Agility Survey (LAS) 180. If there is ever a question about how a person rated themselves – either higher or lower – at the dimension or item level, this tool can provide another perspective.

Finally, some organizations wanted to use learning agility as part of their leadership development program because they thought it would be useful for the participant to get feedback from several different perspectives. The Burke LAS 360 provides five perspectives, and the extensive report gives test-takers a wealth of information they can mine for their development.

Now that we have the assessment tools needed to measure learning agility, inevitably, questions we often hear are, “Ok, we see that learning agility can be measured. But can you develop it and, if so, how?”

The short answer is yes, learning agility can be developed. But if it was easy, everyone would already be doing it.

I recently came across an article by Jacqueline Carter, Rahul Varma and Rasmus Hougaard titled “How to Get People to Pay Attention During Corporate Trainings.”  This doesn’t speak to all the applications of the Burke Learning Agility Inventory, but it can get us started on the discussion of developing learning agility.

The authors’ formula for getting people to stay focused during training programs is:

  • Create a conducive environment for learning
  • Minimize all distractions
  • Start each new learning segment with two minutes of mindfulness
  • Take mindful breaks

It is hard to take issue with any of these points. It goes without saying that if you have participants’ undivided attention, then they are more likely to understand the content being put forth.

For me, there are two other critical pieces – cognitive dissonance and motivation.

In terms of the former, you want to create for the learner an understanding that there is a gap between his or her own performance and a desired performance. If that person doesn’t feel any discomfort or gap, he or she is not likely to do something different.

In terms of the latter, if someone feels a gap between what he or she is doing and some desired state but does not feel it is important, that person is not likely to change.

While I used the Harvard Business Review article as a jumping-off point, the real issue is, no matter the setting (training, assessment, coaching, etc.), how can you aid in that person’s developing learning agility?

Whatever the application that leads to a person developing his or her learning agility, certain elements need to be present. I agree with the article’s authors that you need to do this work in a quiet space where you are not competing with other things for the person’s attention.

This also includes their point about minimizing distractions. They suggest starting a session with two minutes of mindfulness. No issue with that from me, but we may all do this slightly differently.

In a training situation, it is describing the objective of the session and giving participants a roadmap of where we are headed. If I was in a coaching session, I would start with making sure the other person and I share the objective of what we are trying to accomplish.

The area for me where there is some food for thought is in taking mindful breaks. I compromise between demanding someone’s undivided attention all day with allowing them to make calls and return e-mails during breaks. I know it is a distraction and will look for an opportunity to try it.

The other components for me around developing learning agility are: 1) specificity; 2) measurability; and 3) commitment.

Specificity means the person really understands currently what he or she is doing (or not doing). That person also understands what “good” looks like.

Measurability is simple – when are you going to do this thing and how will we know you have done it?

Commitment is related to motivation. Are you willing to publicly – or in writing – state that this is something you will make your best faith effort to accomplish?

Without these elements – the HBR article’s authors and mine – you won’t see people who have received Burke Learning Agility feedback showing increased capability in the future.

David Hoff is the chief operation officer and executive vice president for leadership development at E•A•S•I-Consult®. EASI-Consult works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. EASI-Consult specialties include individual assessment, online employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about EASI-Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email ContactUs@easiconsult.com or call 800.922.EASI.