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Building Agile Learners in Today’s Environment

March 15, 2011

Today’s learning environments have changed. Years ago, you could learn a skill or craft and have that knowledge serve you for most of your career. Case in point…last week my husband had a plumber over to take a look at why our water flow levels were so low that we are unable to get hot water in two of our sinks. We have a tank-less system that boasts “endless” hot water…but we couldn’t get the water hot to begin with.

This guy was highly recommended by one of our neighbors as honest and dependable. He had been in the plumbing business for over 30 years. The plumber and his helper followed my husband around as he demonstrated the low flow problem we had been plagued with for the last few months. He lifted his cap and scratched his head as Don showed him the tank-less water system and the computerized panel used to adjust flow and temperature. He said he had heard about the tank-less systems before, but he didn’t know much about them. He said he would need to talk with his plumbing buddies and see if they have any ideas.

I smiled at the guy and asked if he was going to pose the question to the “twitterverse” which brought a chuckle to his helper and a blank stare from him. I said, “you know…tweet the question to your plumbing buddies.” His face lit up and he smiled at me. “I don’t have a computer, wouldn’t want one. Wouldn’t know where to start with that. I’m too old to learn that kind of stuff.”

I imagined a barber shop or hardware store with a checker board on a barrel around which the plumbers would gather and ponder over plumbing questions and come up with solutions. And, although I love the idea of those types of social connections for learning and sharing of information, it wasn’t going to get our water flow problems resolved…at least not with this guy.

In today’s business climate, you’ve got to be an agile learner. Learning agility is your ability to respond to adaptive challenges through the acquisition and application of knowledge and skills. At the organizational level, agility is the ability to grow and innovate at or above the speed of change.  At the learner level, agile learners are adaptive, collaborative and self-directed in their learning. Today’s learning organizations must be able to cultivate and support these dynamic learners.

What are you doing in your firm to build agile learners? Are you looking at social networking tools to serve up and share learning content and organizational knowledge? What are you doing during formal learning events to get your learners to commit to learn more and connect with each other to keep the learning process going? How do learners share discovered best practices and improved processes?

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