‘Learning Agility’

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21st April, 2023

Captain Sullenberger

was the pilot who became an instant hero that fateful morning in 2009 when he landed an aircraft with 155 people on board on the river Hudson.

And now, a movie, ‘Sully,’ re-creates that event, capturing the drama and the dynamics of decision-making under pressure.

As you might recall, two minutes after the plane took off from La Guardia airport that day, a bird hit caused both its engines to lose power.

The co-pilot was in command at take-off, but the moment Captain Sully saw the gaggle of geese in front of the windshield, and heard the shuddering sound of both engines shutting down, he instantly took charge of the plane.

He considered returning to La Guardia, landing at a nearby airstrip, but when both options didn’t seem workable, he decided to land the aircraft on the Hudson.

Within 208 seconds of the engines malfunctioning, the plane landed on the river — and all 155 lives were saved.

Captain Sully’s action is a prime example of a trait that is being viewed as a useful predictor of leadership success: learning agility.

Put simply, learning agility is knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do.

 Learning agility is, in essence, what you learn through experience in the school of hard knocks.

In his 1970 book, ‘Future Shock,’ American Author Alvin Toffler wrote that “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”.

What he was explaining was the learning agility definition. And he was way ahead of his time.

Today, this is a skill in high demand. Put simply, it’s the ability to be in a novel situation, not know what to do, and then figure it out anyway.

Why is this skill so important for companies? Could it be that they’re dealing with vast amounts of change, and need people who can learn, adapt and solve problems?

The best way to develop learning agility is to celebrate mistakes as a  learning opportunity.

If mistakes are considered taboo, people will develop a natural defensiveness when things don’t go as planned.

But the fact is, unless you’re Chuck Norris, completing a task perfectly the first time around is unlikely for most people. And agile learners, being excited about new challenges and comfortable with risk, are probably going to make mistakes. But, they’ll also fail fast and learn how to perform better next time.

Today, people will become incompetent in their current jobs if they don’t grow, adapt, and evolve to changing technologies and processes.

So, skills like learning agility are fast becoming the secret to success in the 21st-century workplace.

Laszlo Bock, former SVP of People Operations at Google in a recent interview with Thomas Friedman for the New York Times shared: “For every job, the No. 1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability, and it’s not I.Q. It’s learning agility. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information”.

Be an agile learner,

Learn, unlearn & relearn constantly & stay blessed forever.