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Voices@Athena--Mario Brazzoli


"Our personal “learning agility” not only empowers us as individuals but could be a positive force within our communities."

Mario Brazzoli
Transformation Manager
Oikocredit International
Netherlands

Integrated DBA (IDBA) Batch 2021

 

My reflections on Learning Agility

Earlier this year, my team and I were brainstorming for a presentation on the rapid pace of change. Within minutes of the discussion, it transcended into the sharing fest of experiences. Ranging from the rise of Netflix versus the fall of Blockbuster to how Kodak has faded from our lives. The younger members in the team were quick to mention Myspace, Yahoo and even Blackberry, and then shockingly, one of them asked me, “What is a fax machine?”

I still consider my seventeen years of work experience limited, the first chapter, not even close to the first half of my career. But as I was narrating how I was taught to write a 'cheque' at school, or how I dreamed of having a 'PalmPilot' at University, I realised that the rapid changes we were planning to illustrate do not need much explanation. 

It reminded me of a presentation that was shared with me way back in 2011, that was titled “World after midnight” by Eddie Obeng. The concept was that we would experience a moment when the pace of change would exceed our ability to learn. Eddie called the crossing of the two linear lines “Midnight” suggesting that how we work will start to fundamentally be re-shaped to accommodate the pace of change we are experiencing. “Midnight” now sounds like a perfect metaphor to indicate that we were sleeping while it happened.

Our discussion found its purpose through the haze of personal reflection. We should be talking about how to prepare our peers for this new world we are living and working in. What capability is required to invest in to help people “learn to learn” or “learn on the go”? 

Our research led us to ‘Learning agility', something many of us have heard of before, but maybe not a concept we have explored and incorporated into our thinking. Building the learning agility of our colleagues offered our organisation the opportunity to support individuals to seek out and learn from unfamiliar experiences with the prospect of applying those lessons to their changing landscape.  

Knight and Natalie (2017) describe ‘Learning agility’ as “not necessarily an academic skill, rather it encapsulates an individual's ability and passion to quickly study a new problem and use their own learning process to gain deep understanding before making a decision”. Personally, the concept of learning agility felt like teaching me how to learn continuously. It was like an attribute of the Agile approaches we were introducing into the modern workplace. 

I was further inspired while researching the underlining concept when I came across the “Faure Report - Learning to Be” (UNESCO, 1972), which spoke about the concept of “lifelong education” and how it would “enable all citizens to participate fully in a more just and egalitarian society”. Another moment of personal reflection followed by a deep sense of personal accountability occurred when I read “as involving a fundamental transformation of society so that the whole of society becomes a learning resource for each individual” (Halliday, 2010). A reminder that our personal “learning agility”  not only empowers us as individuals but could be a positive force within our communities.

My takeaway from the session was no longer how I could share information with an audience, but the responsibility I have as a member of society to keep learning and learning to learn. And the best way to learn should surely be to go and learn. I don’t think it matters if you pick up a new podcast, read an article or blog or like me, reignite your learning through a formal educational program. As Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

References:

Halliday, J. (2010) Lifelong Learning [Online]. Available at: 
https://www.sciencedirect.com/referencework/9780080448947/international-encyclopedia-of-education#book-info
(Accessed: 16 September 2021)

IEDP Editor. (2014),  Why ‘Learning Agility' Is Key to Leadership Success [Online]. Available at:
https://www.iedp.com/articles/why-learning-agility-is-key-to-leadership-success/#:~:text=People%20who%20have%20high%20levels,t%20know%20what%20to%20do
(Accessed: 16 September 2021)

Knight M,& Wong N, (2017) The Organisational X-Factor: Learning Agility [Online]. Available at:
https://focus.kornferry.com/leadership-and-talent/the-organisational-x-factor-learning-agility/ 
(Accessed: 16 September 2021)

Mandela, N. (1990) Nelson Mandela 1918–2013 South African statesman [Online]. Available at:
https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780191843730.001.0001/q-oro-ed5-00007046  
(Accessed: 16 September 2021)

Obeng, E. (2021) World after midnight [Online]. Available at: 
https://agilecoffee.com/toolkit/world-after-midnight/ 
(Accessed: 16 September 2021) 

United Nations Educational, Scientific And Cultural Organisation (1972)  Convention Concerning The Protection Of The World Cultural And Natural Heritage [Online]. Available at:
https://whc.unesco.org/archive/convention-en.pdf
(Accessed: 16 September 2021)

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