I spent yesterday reconnecting with the community of Columbia University’s Teacher’s College, and it was delightful! We gathered at Google’s Tech Corners in Sunnyvale to honor Dr. W. Warner Burke and his latest work on learning agility. He’s the chair of my Master’s program and a beloved professor to many. It’s no surprise that his visit to the West Coast was a huge draw for us alums, given his influence on students and the field of organizational psychology.
In his signature lighthearted style, he shared with us a new multi-rater instrument to measure and aid in the development of learning agility and its behaviors, providing evidence to support the conceptual definitions presented by DeRue, Ashford, and Myers from University of Michigan in 2012.
Burke presented the two components of learning agility. The first is skill. In his words, it’s “what you do when you don’t know what to do.” I interpret that as ability-- the application of knowledge and learning. The other is motivation, the “willingness to take risk in novel situations”. To me, willingness is the key. Anyone can take risk, it’s whether they ultimately take action that makes the difference. When it comes to learning agility, both skill and motivation are equally important.
Together with his doctoral students, Burke identified nine “clusters” associated with learning agility:
Prof. Burke pointed out that the last two, speed and flexibility, are the most powerful--meaning that they have predictive ability and relate most to other parts of the assessment.
What’s this have to do with Design of Work Experience (DOWE)? To begin with, learning and the development/use of capability is a key theme of the DESIGN and CHANGE phases of the process. All of these behaviors that demonstrate learning agility are required for the successful practice of DOWE. Doing DOWE as a methodology is a chance to practice behaviors associated with learning agility in an experiential setting. Chalk this one up to yet another benefit: DOWE develops and increases learning agility. Stay tuned—I look forward to share more about this in the future.
“You have to have a certain amount of ability to learn in order to be agile at it.”
“The more defensive one is, the less agile one is going to be about learning.”
“You cannot be an agile learner if you are passive. Learning agility is an active process.”
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