DeRue in his 2012 work on learning agility described Speed and Flexibility as the essence of learning agility. Burke et al. went on to confirm the importance of Flexibility and Speed in their research, calling them the drivers of learning agility. Burke went on to identify 7 other dimensions. Since getting involved with learning agility many people I spoke with saw Speed as simply a function of intellectual horsepower or cognitive ability. If that were true, then how would you develop it? Fortunately, I came across the work of Daniel Kahneman, “Thinking, Fast and Slow”. He introduces the idea of System 1 and System 2 that affect how we approach situations. System 1 is mostly about how fast one responds to a situation. The difficulty is at times when a problem is encountered and the answer is unknown, the response is contrived and incorrect. System 2 is more methodical but can be difficult to engage initially. Kahneman’s work confirmed that Speed was something that can be developed.
Flexibility was the other chapter that was daunting, but for different reasons than Speed. Flexibility is about changing frameworks or perspectives. Seeing what you do not see. This chapter provides ideas and tools to develop capability in this area, before I discovered Adam Grant’s book, “Think Again”. The title itself intonates flexibility. So unlike Kahneman, Grant didn’t rewire my view of Flexibility. He confirmed many of the things I had already written about. His views were supported in theory, mine in practice. The biggest insight from Grant is the relationship between Flexibility and its connection to the people part of learning agility. Specifically, the dimensions of Interpersonal Risk-Taking, Feedback Seeking and Collaborating. It caused me to go back and emphasize those connections in those chapters.
Although this new book is not expected to be published until later this year, Warner Burke and I felt a need to preview its contents. In our first book, Learning Agility-The Key to Leader Potential, we were trying to accomplish a few things. 1) We wanted to define learning agility based on Burke’s research. There were so many ways the term learning agility was being used and defined differently that we wanted to get his theory and research based point- of- view on the record. 2) We wanted our readers to be able to visualize what the nine dimensions looked like as they occurred in the workplace, at least what the opportunity to demonstrate learning agility looked like. 3) We wanted practitioners to get a glimpse of how the Burke Learning Agility Inventory could be employed as part of different HR systems.
We anticipated concerns with a self-report measure because we had them ourselves. Those of you steeped in test construction know that there are ways to address rating inflation, but our data to date is not showing that as an issue. We did however develop a 180 and 360 version of the assessment, which would provide an opportunity for additional perspectives. Once practitioners feel they have a valid assessment that measures the construct effectively and resonates with leaders about how it shows up on their jobs, then they want to know how to develop it. That is what this second book, Developing Learning Agility- Using the Burke Assessments is all about. Chapter 1 describes the three versions of the assessment: Self, 180, 360, and describes the advantages and disadvantages of each. There is a chapter on delivering the feedback to someone and how you might “validate” the assessment results. Oftentimes when you are exposing someone to new content you want to use an “arms length” example so their own biases don’t cloud their vision. The Captain Rick Croson chapter describes his experiences making a living on the ocean as a charter boat captain and how learning agility has been instrumental to his success. As you remember, there are thirty- eight learning agility behaviors that are then organized around nine different dimensions. Each of the next nine chapters looks at a dimension and each of the four or five behavioral descriptions of what someone does when they demonstrate that behavior. There are tools and techniques that the reader can use to develop those behaviors in their own position.
Warner Burke has written a wonderful chapter describing the theoretical background in organizational development and learning that preceded but contributed to the present understanding of learning agility. It helps better understand how we got to where we are today. It is also a useful context for developing some of these thirty-eight behaviors. Burke summarized the theories that were coming together and pointing to what came to be described as learning agility. DeRue et al.’s article in 2012 became a starting point and a beacon for Burke’s work. DeRue’s theory said in part, context matters. Burke’s theoretical chapter in this book provides context. DeRue also said that learning agility was about two things, Speed and Flexibility. We have already described the importance we put on those dimensions as the drivers of learning agility and how Kahneman and Grant’s work contributed to our thinking.
To sum up, Burke and I believe we have written a book that will help practitioners and leaders with the “how” of learning agility. Our first book was a lot about the “what”. We look forward to your feedback. One thing for sure is if anyone needed a “burning platform” as a reason to justify the importance of learning agility, the last year of COVID-19 should have provided support for its importance.
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.