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A recent post caught my attention in People Matters, “Reimagining Learning – Work from home, the new normal!” by TC Sanjit, who is the CHRO at the Bengaluru Airport in Bangalore, India. His premise is the keys (to learning) are agility and resilience. Resilience for me is another word for motivation. How much energy does the person or group possess that enables them to persevere in the face of resistance, adversity, ambiguity, or whatever be the countervailing force? Agility is a term that has been used to describe so many things that it ends up providing little definition at all. Agility, as I define it in a learning context, is that you find yourself in a situation where you have never been before, you don’t know what to do, and you figure it out. People who are more learning agile (which probably means their motivation or resilience is higher) are better able to deal with an unknown or ambiguous situation and determine a solution. The person may not identify the best solution immediately.

Through scientific study, Dr. Warner Burke has identified that people who have high learning agility demonstrate nine specific characteristics. These dimensions are: 1) Speed; 2) Flexibility; 3) Collaborating; 4) Feedback Seeking; 5) Performance Risk-Taking; 6) Interpersonal Risk-Taking; 7) Information Gathering; 8) Experimenting; and 9) Reflecting. Here are some examples of how one might use these characteristics when faced with a new situation or challenge. They may try different possibilities or “Experiment” and get to a viable option. They may attempt several things, thereby taking performance risks (another Burke capability) and be able to talk about what was learned. This approach and all others work well when thought is given to what was learned and what happens next. This Burke capability of Reflecting, yet another of the nine dimensions found on the Burke Learning Agility Inventory.

Sajit goes on in his post and says that COVID-19 has caused people to operate within two blind paradigms: 1) How much do you know about the situation? and 2) How well can you manage it? While Sajit sees these as obstacles, these two conditions are ideally suited for someone with capabilities in the nine areas of Burke’s Learning Agility. According to Sajit’s paradigms, either the situation is known or unknown. For Burke, if the situation is new or unknown it will be fraught with ambiguity. How well you can manage this new or ambiguous situation in part depends on how learning agile you are as measured by the Burke Learning Agility assessments. The higher your capability, the more options you will have of things you can do to be effective.

Sanjit describes any learning path depending on four factors.  The factors are: 1) Learning Agility; 2) Availability; 3) Analytics and data dependent learning; and 4) Appreciate and celebrate learning accomplishments. Before responding to these factors, the effects of COVID- 19 have forced us to go from in-person to remote learning. Most would agree that conditions have required us to change our frameworks on the how and what of learning. Burke would say this is the Flexibility dimension of learning agility. Some companies have stopped learning events entirely until they can return to in person learning. Other organizations have tried to Experiment and take Performance Risks using Zoom and/or other blended approaches to learning. Still other companies who were further along using virtual learning platforms just accelerated those efforts.

Back to Sanjit’s four factors. He talks about one factor being learning agility. His definition is closer to my definition. He then says the answer is to do it during downtime. That is when, but he didn’t address how. His second factor is availability. His examples are platforms or methodologies. This could address availability. He talked about “what” not “how.” Factor three is analytics and data-dependent learning. He talks about the purpose of the learning. He mentions using data to determine learning trends. I do not see that as new. He then talks about modularizing the learning. Again, not new, but important to a remote approach. Finally, factor four, appreciate and celebrate.  There is something to be said about having a meal, reception, or drink with your fellow participants. It is hard to simulate that virtually. I do see people getting on calls early or staying after the meeting to socialize or share an adult beverage over conversation. Not where we want to get, but progress on the road to a solution.

So, what is the take-away from 2020 and the effects of COVID-19? Some people change willingly. Many people only change when forced. While people struggled with working from home and separation of personal and professional life, balancing competing demands of children and pets and conference calls, most people I speak with do not want to go back to an office 100% of the time. Some want to make an appearance once a week and others in a hybrid version. Once vaccines give us the option of returning to an office, how do we capture what we learned and move it forward as part of the “new normal”? How do we incorporate what we learned into a “Reimagined Learning”?

About the Author

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