Agile learning brings the learning from the classroom into the working operations. It is about developing methods that address the incremental need for learning and change and about developing an inquiry-based mindset and learning through self-discovery and experience. After all, words don’t teach, the experience is our only master.
When you undertake agile learning, the onus of responsibility to take the initiative is on you, so don’t wait to be informed or told.
If you are a perfectionist and a hard critic of yourself (or others), you are going to struggle to work in an agile learning team. The reason for this is agile learning requires that we move outside our comfort zone to try new things and new ways of doing things, that are yet untested. This means it is highly likely it is going to ‘fail’ several times before it is right. That is not only OK, it is an essential part of the process. Note we said ‘it’ not you. You cannot possibly design or try something completely new and get it perfect first time, otherwise, it would not be ‘new.’ The process of iterative learning is learning, do, reflect, learn, do, reflect…and so on.
Six Habits of Leaders Who Undertake Agile Learning
1. Inside Out
They can move outside their internal comfort zone and be willing to fail, and if necessary look silly. Growth and learning require that we have these experiences because it requires that we take risks and challenges that will almost certainly not go to plan the first time. If they do go to plan first time too often, you are not stretching yourself enough, raise the bar and go for ‘failure.’
2. Go from Status Quo to Status Mojo
Move outside your external comfort zone by putting yourself in new networks and circles of people. If possible, mix with people who are not like you, or the people inside your comfort zone. So, meet new people and in addition to that, do something completely new every day for at least a month. These new things do not have to be big, but they have to be something you have never done before. Examples are, taking a different route to work, trying an exercise class you have never even thought about, or fancied before, reading a book or watching a movie that is outside your normal repertoire etc.
3. Celebrate Differences
Leaders who undergo agile learning are collaborative workers. We are not islands and we learn best collaboratively. To collaborate, we must become aware of our unconscious biases (we all have them). We need to build our self-awareness to uncover where we may be unintentionally prejudiced. Differences in every aspect of human nature and culture are what makes learning so interesting and valuable. Start unlocking the door to your unconscious biases and start celebrating differences in others.
4. Mirror, Mirror
Simply having new experiences and exposing yourself to different people and situations is no guarantee that we learn from them. A leader undergoing agile learning is hungry for feedback from those around them and engages in proactive feedback. They also spend time questioning and reflecting on their assumptions and behaviours. How could they do things better, quicker or smarter? Did their behaviour evoke the response they were seeking in a given situation? Feedback and self-reflection provide deep levels of insights and help us become more self-aware and mindful of everything we do.
5. Work smart, not hard
‘Working hard’ is thinking and working about something in the same old way, yet expecting a different outcome. Working in old ways in a new environment is hard work, toxic and stressful. Almost everything we do now requires a new paradigm of working smart.
To think and work smart, we must stop thinking about how we did it, or how we do it currently and think of it as detoxing old thoughts and ways. Detoxing is taking out, not loading more in on top of the old. So when you look at a problem, a challenge, or a task, put aside any preconceived ideas about old or current ways and make room for your subconscious to offer you completely new insights.
6. No Blame Game
Leaders who are agile learners do not defer to the blame game. Whether this is blaming you, or others. Agile learners take full responsibility for everything they do, are forgiving of themselves and others and are compassionate with themselves and others. Blame closes down our minds and our hearts, both of which we need to be accomplished, agile learners.