Toward a Learning Agile Organization

August 22, 2011

“At an organizational level, agility is the ability to grow, change, or innovate at or above the speed of one’s own market. Anything less cannot be considered agility.” – Timothy R. Clark & Conrad Gottfredson

WomanCEOWe have all heard of corporate agility. We hear the term “agile” all the time related to today’s corporate environment: agile processes, agile practices, agile leadership. In our rapidly changing world, agility is one of the most important skills an organization can have if it is to stay competitive. Agility is the ability to move quickly, change rapidly, and respond to crises, threats and opportunities at the point of need. Of course, the ability to be agile relies on the ability of the organization to quickly gain the knowledge they need to do so. Rapid access to knowledge and information drives the learning agile organization, as defined by Clark and Gottfredson in In Search of Learning Agility. But what does it mean to have Learning Agility? What does a Learning Agile organization look like?

Imagine being able to get the knowledge you need at the moment you need it. That’s not too much of a stretch today, is it? Think Google Docs, SharePoint, the Internet and intranets. If you want information, it’s out there. You simply need to find it; Google it and you end up with millions of pieces of information to sift and search through. But Learning Agility is not just the ability to find information.

Now imagine being able to find the knowledge you need quickly and easily and then being able to actually apply that new knowledge immediately. What would that look like? Just being able to find information does not make it useful, and certainly does not make it learning. Information only becomes learning when we connect it in our cognitive structures and are able to apply it in context. Google “ADDIE” and you find all kinds of information on instructional design. But will that give you the learning you need to be able to create an instructionally sound course for your target audience?

So how can information be structured and delivered so that it quickly becomes learning that is relevant in the current context and can be applied in a threat, crises or opportunity that arises? Well, now, that’s Learning Agility.

Technology provides us with so many ways to move toward learning agility. Think “blended learning,” but grown up to include access to knowledge in more ways than just online and classroom. Wikis, discussion forums, online courseware, blogs, chats, social networks… the list can go on and on. Technologies provide the forums we need to be able to share knowledge and access learning at the point of need.

Learning agile organizations understand this need, and provide a new model for developing and delivering learning to their employees, using all of the technologies available to them. They see learning not as a onetime event, or even as ongoing events, but as adaptive, collaborative, ongoing, and part of the daily activities of any employee. Learning Agile organizations use all tools available to share, collaborate, and learn whenever and wherever, all the time. And Learning Agile organizations value the ability to adapt at the point of need.

Is your organization moving toward Learning Agility?


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