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Article No.: 15-8, August 1, 2015

Article Title: The Advantages of Being a Learning Agile Organization

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

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From my work with organizations around the globe over the past 25 years, I’ve observed some patterns across organizations that have become learning agile:

  • Employees have the ability to quickly learn and apply new concepts and approaches
  • Leaders strive to build a learning community within the company and the industry
  • Employees don’t hoard information – they share knowledge with peers

Long-lived companies have the desire and capacity to update technology and processes on a frequent, ongoing basis.  The culture could be described as “we can be even better”, as opposed to “we’ve always done it this way”.
In a study published in June 2011, High-Impact Learning Culture:  The 40 Best Practices for Creating an Empowered Enterprise, Bersin & Associates shared some interesting statistics.  They found that organizations with strong learning cultures are:

  • 46% more likely to be strong innovators in their markets
  • 34% more likely to get to market before their competitors
  • 33% more likely to report higher customer satisfaction than other organizations
  • 39% more likely to report success in implementing customer suggestions
  • 58% more likely to be successful at developing the skills needed for meeting future customer demand

In preparation for our upcoming book, Learning Agility:  The Competitive Advantage,
Dr. Sheri Caldwell and I surveyed 150 leaders in Fortune 100 and 500 companies.  We asked three questions:

  1.  Of the four types of learning agility (mental, people, change and results), what is most critical to your organization today, and why?
  2.  For your leadership team specifically, which of the four aspects of learning agility are most critical, and why?
  3.  Can you describe some examples of times when your employees’ learning agility positively affected the organization’s success?

The majority of respondents told us that all four types of learning agility are important for their organizations to survive and thrive; however, the type of learning agility identified as critical most often (83%) was people agility.
Sheri and I weren’t surprised to find this result, based on our research for our first book together, Using Your Emotional Intelligence to Develop Others (2009, Palgrave MacMillan, NY, NY).  We found that employees who exhibited the ability to relate to internal and external customers, actively listen and assess others’ needs, and articulate their own feelings and expectations contributed significantly to their organization’s success in the marketplace.
I encounter examples of how learning agility positively affects organizational success on a daily basis.  The CEO of a mid-sized publisher with whom I work shared with me that he had recently hired a financial executive who was new to the industry and its unique needs.  The financial executive took extra time in her first weeks and months on the job to meet the company’s staff as well as customers, in order to familiarize herself with their perspectives and preference for receiving financial information.  She used her active listening skills to leverage what she heard to prepare reports and recommendations that were user friendly, easily understood and influential.  These actions provided credibility for her and the company.


If you have any questions or need more information about this article, please complete our Contact Form, or contact Dr. Gravett by telephone at 513-753-8870.

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