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Article No.: 12-8, August 1, 2012

Article Title: The Future of Learning Agility

Author: Linda Gravett, Ph.D., SPHR, CEQC

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After researching and working in the area of enhancing learning agility for the last five years, I believe that learning agility will continue as a key topic of interest and study over the next decade.  Organizations are faced with a global, highly competitive marketplace, and to remain in the forefront they must be agile, learning organizations.  Learning organizations are powered by people with learning agility.
I believe that Human Resource professionals will ramp up their interest in neuroscience in order to understand how they can foster a workplace full of individuals who are energized by innovation and continuous improvement.  Medical researchers are already studying what occurs in the brain when people are placed in an interactive, motivating environment.  This is information highly relevant to those of us who want to select, develop and leverage the talents of a workforce that has learning agility.
I’ve observed that some astute training and development professionals are taking into account already the important correlation between participants’ positive mood and learning outcomes.  Research by Caruso and Salovey for their 2004 book, The Emotionally Intelligent Manager, found a direct relationship between positive mood when learning new information and recall ability.  I’ve observed more trainers and educators recently who are considering ways to foster a positive, interactive and fun learning environment to promote learning agility.  The learning environment is not necessarily in a classroom for a finite period of time – it’s across the entire organization and across time.
I’ve observed a renewed energy around my cohort’s (Baby Boomers) desire to stay in the workplace longer and continue to learn new concepts and skills.  The old adage, “use it or lose it” is actually true when it comes to brain fitness.  If older workers don’t stay open to new information and approaches, the brain can lose some of its plasticity and ability to absorb and use information.  The challenge for education and training professionals is to keep learning experiences current, varied, meaningful and broken into small segments - for learners of all ages. 
I’m seeing more and more organizations focus on providing employees with an active role in their own development and learning.  Additionally, I’ve seen more leaders intentionally tie their employees’ roles and ongoing education to growth needs of the company.  When employees understand how their role, and their development within that role, specifically contributes to the company’s ongoing success, they can focus on key priorities for education.
My recent focus has been studying and measuring the impact of self-awareness, a dimension on Emotional Intelligence, on learning agility.  Self-aware individuals take an intentional, laser-like focused approach on how they learn best, and under what circumstances.  For example, if a person discovers that online learning provides the best kind of stimulus for learning and retaining information, he or she can build those types of learning opportunities into their development.
As leaders, we can foster an environment of learning agility by providing ongoing, daily opportunities for employees to learn new information and skills.  There are many forms that this daily stimulus can take:  teachable moments where managers take a few minutes to explain or demonstrate a new concept or approach; brown bag lunch discussions around a thorny issue or problem that needs to be solved; or ad hoc brainstorming meetings to develop a fresh approach to a customer request.  We’ve long been concerned with physical wellness and fitness for our employees, and I believe the future will bring a keener interest in brain fitness for the enrichment of our employees and organizations.


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