The road to success as an independent professional is filled with many obstacles. In order to stay relevant and competitive within your industry, you must be willing to adapt and change. One specific skill that helps with this mindset is learning agility—the ability and willingness to learn from experience and apply that learning to perform successfully under new or first-time conditions. Or, more simply put, knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do.
In his webinar, Adapt… or Else! Tap into the Power of Learning Agility, George Hallenbeck, an experienced consultant and Director of Commercialization for the Center for Creative Leadership, discussed the core behaviors of learning agility, how to develop them, and how to apply them to your work. In case you missed it, we’ve summarized the four key components of learning agility below.
Actively place yourself in a learning mindset to better manage new and difficult situations. Whether you are just starting your own business or have been working as an independent professional for years, there are always unknown factors and situations you must face. One of the goals of learning agility is to be in a continuous state of growth, which will help you become more comfortable with the unknown.
By embracing situations that may be intimidating or challenging, you can broaden your experience, expand your perspective, and test out new ways of doing things. Seek out projects that are outside of your comfort zone and approach unfamiliar experiences as a chance to jump in and learn something new.
As an expert in your industry, it can be easy to become comfortable with what you do on a daily basis. But while confidence is a good thing, it can become dangerous to become too complacent. In order to keep learning and progressing, it’s important to stay curious and actively experiment. When road bumps or an uncertain situation arises, curiosity can help you to make better decisions when you have to course correct.
Listen to peers and others in your industry to learn different approaches and perspectives. As you take more chances and put yourself in new situations, remember that ambiguity and uncertainty are okay. If you don’t have expertise on a particular topic or project, bring in experts to help and be open to learning from them.
Lifelong learning is a major tenant of learning agility. By continually evaluating and reevaluating your strengths and weaknesses, you can benchmark what you are doing well and where you need to grow. Seek out feedback as well to support self-evaluation; obtaining an outside perspective often reveals additional learning opportunities or areas for improvement that you may not notice yourself. Mistakes are important chances for learning as well—reflect on them and think of them as critical lessons to inform future decision making.
By applying what you learn from previous experiences, feedback, and mistakes, you will be able to better navigate new and challenging situations. Encountering setbacks is tough, but getting back on your feet and putting an action plan in place is easier when you can think back on similar situations you’ve been in or questions you’ve asked. Stay open to new ways of solving problems and ask questions when you encounter a new way of doing something to continue to build your inventory of reference points.
Learning agility is a skill you can continue to develop over the course of your life. Immerse yourself in new environments, be open to different ways of doing things, and keep asking questions. Failure is a part of the journey for all successful independent professionals; how you learn from these experiences will help keep you on a path of continuous learning and future growth.
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