Learning Agility from the Inside Out

A new Korn Ferry report offers neuroscience-based insights for developing your agile learning skills.

Amelia Haynes

Associate Researcher, Korn Ferry Institute

Annamarya Scaccia

Writer and Editor, Korn Ferry Institute

Agile learners are hungry for more. More knowledge. More experiences. More skills. 

These learners find lessons in everything they do. They are endlessly curious—relentless in their pursuit of new facts and information. They take risks, both big and small, exploring new and novel situations. They look back on those experiences, with mindfulness and intention, applying what they’ve learned to future events.

Curiosity, risk-taking, and reflection are central to Learning Agility. People who are highly learning agile have a sense of wonder, a readiness to seek out the unfamiliar, and an ability to unpack this new knowledge in actionable ways. And in today’s ever-evolving, ever-challenging business landscape, these qualities are in great demand, seen increasingly as critical to a company’s success.

Yet, although Learning Agility as a construct is nothing new, learning agile leaders are still in low supply. For decades, organizations have tried to develop a more agile workforce, with talent flexing and strengthening their Learning Agility muscles through stretch assignments and high-stakes turnarounds. But, experts say, the challenges of recent years have created a new dilemma: agile leaders are needed more today than ever before, yet in a world that’s much more digital and much more insulated, the traditional ways of developing agility may no longer be enough.

It’s clear that in order to develop Learning Agility for the future, organizations will need to first rethink what they know about it today. “People are dramatically influenced by non-verbal signals more than we realized,” says Guangrong Dai, Senior Director of Research at the Korn Ferry Institute. “The signals exhibited by leaders are highly efficient messengers of the attitude toward learning.”

In its latest report, Learning Agility from the Inside Out, the Korn Ferry Institute takes a new look at Learning Agility, one that dives deep into the science behind the construct. The paper explores the core neurological and biological processes that enable agility through motivation, learning ability, and flexible application, as well as offers concrete, neuroscience-based insights to develop those critical agile learning skills.

Experts say that, by taking an inside-out perspective, leaders may not only enhance their own agility, but also their capacity to create environments where others can learn and expand their own Learning Agility. “What if you could transform scarcity into abundance, limitations into possibilities, sequentiality into simultaneity, less into more, similarity into diversity? Imagine how much prosperity we could create,” says Barbara Ramos, Korn Ferry Senior Client Partner and Head of Assessment & Succession in EMEA. “The good news is that it is on our hands, in your hands, in my hands. There is a lot we can start doing immediately to expand our impact.”

By: Amelia Haynes, Associate Researcher, Korn Ferry Institute & Annamarya ScacciaWriter and Editor, Korn Ferry Institute

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