During an A.J. O’Connor Associates (AJO) facilitated session for leaders in the hospitality industry, learning agility was rated last in our ten 2020 leadership competencies in terms of perceived importance and leadership development needs. Executive coach and author Marshall Goldsmith conceded that learning agility was overlooked in his 2008 research on how future leader competencies are different from yesterday. Learning agility is one of the ten Leader 2020 competencies identified by AJO and arguably, it is more important than ever as leadership roles become more complex in the dynamic, uncertain and global business environments in which we operate today.
What is Learning Agility?
Academics and practitioners disagree on a definition of learning agility, including how it differs from learning ability. Learning agility has been defined by De Meuse et al. (2010) as:
“the willingness and ability to learn from experience, and subsequently, apply that learning to perform successfully under new or first-time conditions.”
How do you assess Learning Agility?
Each consulting organization whose model is shown above offers its own proprietary assessment to measure learning/leadership agility. These are targeted at learning and development practitioners:
- Learning Agility Assessment Inventory (LAAI) developed by the research team at Teachers College, Columbia University measures the five main facets of learning-agile behavior shown in the table above. This research is being performed in collaboration with the Center for Creative Leadership.
- Korn/Ferry’s Lominger offers three different levels of learning agility assessment. This includes a 30-minute self-assessment, the Choices Architect® multi rater assessment and an interview protocol process. The five dimensions of their model are shown in the table above. The fifth dimension (self-awareness) was more recently added to the original four.
- Changewise Leadership Agility 360. The Leadership Agility 360 assesses a manager’s level of agility in three distinct action contexts (leading organizational change, improving team performance and engaging in pivotal conversations) and at three distinct levels of agility (Expert, Achiever and Catalyst). (Note: AJO is now certified to use this 360 and would be happy to discuss its applicability to your organization’s needs.)
- See our April 2016 post where we cover two new learning agility assessments now available.
While the definition and measurement of this competency undergo further refinement, it is clear that the case for building learning agility is not in dispute. As CCL concludes,
“Although our understanding of learning agility is growing, research is still in its infancy and there is much work to be done. It is imperative that we continue to evolve our understanding of the concept and seek better clarity around what learning agility is, how it can be measured, and what learning-agile individuals do that differentiates them from others. Ultimately, this work will help practitioners better assess, select, and develop high-potential talent within their organizations. And through a better understanding of learning-agile behavior, individuals can unleash their own leadership potential.”
AJO’s Recommended Reading & Resources
- Goldsmith, M., & Reiter, M. (2007) What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful. Hyperion Books.
- Joiner, W.B., & Josephs, S.A. (2006) Leadership Agility: Five Levels of Mastery for Anticipating and Initiating Change. Jossey-Bass.
- McCall, W., Lombardo. M.M., & Morrison, A.M. (1988) The Lessons of Experience: How Successful Executives Develop on the Job. The Free Press.
- Swisher, V. (2012) Becoming An Agile Leader. Lominger International: A Korn/Ferry Company.
Research, Articles & Whitepapers
- DeMeuse, K.P. (2008) Learning Agility: A New Construct Whose Time Has Come. Lominger International: A Korn/Ferry Company.
- DeRue, D.S., Ashford, S.J., & Myers, C.G. (2012) Learning Agility: In Search of Conceptual Clarity and Theoretical Grounding. Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Volume 5, Issue 3, September 2012, Pages: 258–279.
- Doyle, C., & Moye. N. Ph.D. (2010) Learning Agility: The Leadership Skill for a Moving Target. IRMI.
- Joiner, W.B. (2012) How to Build An Agile Leader. Chief Learning Officer.
- Mitchinson, A. & Morris, R. Ph.D. (2012) Learning About Learning Agility. Center for Creative Leadership.
- How is the role of leader changing? Marshall Goldsmith addresses the question of how the leader of future is different than today?
- How does Learning Agility predict who will succeed in leadership roles? Vicki Swisher at Korn/Ferry International speaks with The Korn/Ferry Institute about how learning agility can help predict who will succeed in leadership roles.
- Learning Agility: The X-Factor in Identifying and Developing Future Leaders Vicki Swisher, Senior Director — IP Research and Development, discusses Learning Agility and its importance in identifying and developing high potential talent.
- The 5 Practices to Increased Learning Agility. This on demand webinar introduces the Center for Creative Leadership’s framework for learning agility. It also offers insights and tactics on how to use the framework to increase your own learning agility.
- There is a way to learn. Using computer programming as an example, Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT Media Lab, discusses his theories on learning. View more of the series at http://phoenix.edu/lectures.