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The No. 1 Attribute for a Successful Tomorrow

The No. 1 Attribute for a Successful Tomorrow

If you think about the many things that you use on a daily basis (cell phone, watch, TV, alarm clock, camera, etc.) and where they were just 5, 10, or even 15 years ago you may surprise yourself. I mean if you think about it, the iPhone is only celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, yet it feels like it’s been around forever.

Today, in this day and age things change at a rapid pace. Those who plant their feet firmly in the ground, resistant to change, are sure to be left behind. To thrive in our society, you must always be at the top of your game, ready to go. But, you can’t do that successfully if you don’t learn to be agile. You must not only be able to learn as technologies, business models, and entire industries evolve, but you must be able to take what you have learned and apply it to all aspects of life effectively and efficiently. You must possess a high-level of learning agility.

What exactly is learning agility? And why do we need it?

Learning Agility as defined by Korn Ferry is: “The Ability to learn from experience, and then apply that learning to perform successfully under new situations.”  This competency or capability describes a person’s speed to learn. People with strong learning agility can rapidly study, analyze and interpret new and different scenarios and situations as well as new business problems. However, learning agility is not the same as learning ability as you must have the ability to learn before gaining agility. They are two separate issues. However, agility does include adaptability, openness, critical thinking and all types of abilities that come together to rethink and reframe a new situation in a way that is different than before and then be able to respond to a situation with value.

The premise that drives learning agility is that we are in an ever-changing environment. A few years back we called this a Whitewater scenario where there were predictable changes in a rapidly moving market. In the current and immediate future with more rapid and abrupt changes, with little predictability we call this environment a “VUCA” environment (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous). Learning agility becomes imperative in an industry or business space that is undergoing disruptive type change. Take the retail industry for example, 20 years ago retail was all about the brick and mortar location where now it has moved to product supply chain and internet distribution. How someone in this industry space takes their knowledge and skills and applies it in an agile way to respond to how the market space is changing is what will set them apart and keep them on the leading edge of disrupters of technology and other various ways of doing business.

VUCA Environment

Learning Agility and Resilience 

On the same token, for individuals, if you do not stay current and adapt a continuous learning habit, the next promotion or the job you’ve been pining over may pass you by. We no longer have the time for traditional learning systems to take their course to support changes because of the significant time lag and the life cycle of the change may be over before the training has been completed. It is vital for individuals and organizations to stay engaged, relevant, and on the leading edge of change to be successful.

In conjunction with agile learning there are certain attributes that an individual needs to have in order to be proactive in this ever changing environment and to be at the fundamental level of learning agility. These two significant attributes that drive agility include acceptance and being open to change with feedback. One could even argue that agility, acceptance, and being open to change fall under the umbrella of resilience – one of the Four Pillars of Employable Talent. Those that embody resilience embrace challenges and obstacles and use them as springboards to greater accomplishments and a more stimulating existence.

I recently attended a SHRM local chapter presentation by David Hoff, M.Ed. on his ongoing research with Warren Burke of measuring learning agility. They discussed the progression of their research and how they developed the thirty-eight question profile to measure learning agility. This new tool could prove to be extremely helpful in various organizational situations. What if we were able to determine if a candidate is the right fit for a specific position? Or if we could measure team cohesion to make sure various skills and attributes of the individuals making up the team worked well together as a whole? Or what if you were putting a project team together in a certain situation. Wouldn’t it be helpful to be able to assess various individuals to create an all-star team? Leadership today requires all to not only lead organizations through these issues but do so in a proactive approach with high levels of success and little to no tolerance for mistakes.  How do leaders do this in real time and actively balancing all stakeholder interests?  Leaders develop themselves to be “Agile Learners” and integrate learning agility within their teams and the organization.

This skill is an ever increasing importance in today’s leaders. Don’t be ridged only to be left behind. Become more agile, embrace change, stay on the leading edge, and continue to thrive today and all the days to come.



Dr. David Miles is Chairman of the Miles LeHane Companies, Inc. He is a member of the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD), a member and founding chapter President of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the Association of Career Professionals (ACP) and a Charter Fellow of the Institute of Career Certification International (ICC International), as the largest global non-profit certification Institute.  Author of The Four Pillars of Employable Talent and Building Block Essentials.  Follow David on Twitter @David_C_Miles

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