Learning as a Competitive Advantage
More and more, a workforce’s capacity for learning is becoming a competitive advantage for businesses and brands today. Staying relevant, fresh, innovative, and creative hinges on a culture’s openness to new perspectives, ability to embrace of different ideas, and willingness to take risks.
As businesses look for new ways to compete, stay agile, and move business forward amidst new challenges and fast-paced changes, having agile learners leading and fueling your business matters now more than ever.
Without Learning, You Risk Losing Relevancy
Research has proven that leaders who aren’t able to shift their assumptions and behaviors over time are more prone to decreasing performance, stagnation, and even ultimate failure. Industries are going to change and shift and demand new levels of expertise, novel perspectives, and constant creativity. Leaders who aren’t able to continuously learn, adapt, and flex new muscles aren’t going to be able to keep up.
It’s okay to have a comfort zone and be aware of where you best thrive. In fact, it’s important to understand your strengths and weaknesses. However, you can’t always stay in your comfort zone. The zone you’re in now won’t be able to compete in the future. Smart leaders and employees are aware of this, and willing to take risks and make moves to continually expand their zones of comfort and areas of knowledge.
So What is Agile Learning?
In a recent post, HBR defines agile learning as “the capacity for rapid, continuous learning from experience.” In order for learning to be agile learning, it can’t only be about absorbing new information and perspectives. It’s also about being able to unlearn what’s no longer needed. The ability to unlearn helps people more quickly embrace novel solutions and get rid of extra information or irrelevant perspectives that are no longer serving them –regularly making room for new knowledge.
Building a Culture of Agile Learning
In order to build a thriving business, you need a team of agile learners – top leaders and employees alike. Here’s how you get there.
1. Develop a growth-mindset
When recruiting, smart businesses aren’t looking at skills alone. A candidate’s capacity to learn and grow has also taken front stage. What potential do they have? How much will we be able to help them grow? These are the questions smart recruiters are asking today. And embracing this kind of growth-mindset can help nurture a culture of agile learners who develop, grow, and learn from one another as their roles progress – driving business forward.
2. Foster experimentation
Agile learners demonstrate a desire to gain new skills and create unique solutions to even the most challenging of problems. And this desire often manifests itself in the ability to experiment – to take small, contained risks, systematically test theories, study new perspectives, and try different methods. Being unafraid of failure is key. As is creating spaces that foster experimentation that can help take this kind of iterative learning to the next level. By embedding experimentation into the way your workplace learns, you ensure that people are motivated to be more flexible, adaptive, and open to new ways of seeing, doing, and solving. Allocating the time and resources to experimentation can help your innovation reach new heights.
3. Focus on collaboration
The more collaborative a workplace, the more agile the learning. When people are able to work together and provide continual feedback, constant learning occurs. Being open to different perspectives, differing opinions, and diverse basis of knowledge is key. The more diverse a group’s perspectives, the more powerful the collaboration – as long as everyone is open and excited to learn from one another. This means building a culture that is able to ask questions, admit weaknesses, let people help where help is needed, and accept outlooks that are different from their own. Taking advantage and learning from the people you see and work with every day is often what helps a business alter its perspective, do something differently, shift the status quo, and find a competitive edge.
Agile Learning Isn’t All About Fast, Fast, Fast
One of the common misconceptions about agile learning is that it’s all about speed. And although speed becomes an organic result of agile learning, in order for learning to be truly agile, businesses also need time to reflect on experiences, priorities, and vision. In order to move fast, you sometimes have to move slow.
Top organizations that are embracing agile learning today are stepping back and taking the time to learn from other’s learning: What did our CEO learn? What did our competitor learn? What did we learn from this mistake? This success? This almost-miss?
Stepping back from challenges, problems, and assignments in order to see the big picture, allows strategic businesses to ask the right questions, tackle the right problems, and prioritize the right kind of learning. And this kind of agile learning is the learning that is going to fuel a business forward and position it to thrive.
Emotive Brand is a San Francisco brand strategy and design agency.