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Can Learning Agility Improve over Time? It is easy to identify your top talent – the ones with high learning agility.

By Ketan Kapoor

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It is clear that today the success of businesses depends on leaders who are agile when it comes to learning - The ones who can perceive problems, resolve the most complex challenges, and effortlessly thrive even in a constantly changing and volatile environment are truly the kind of leaders that all organizations need today.

What some companies, strangely, do not realize is that such people may already be working with them, and hence their potential may be underutilized or even ignored. Studies show that in companies today at least 15% are top potential because they are high on learning agility, and it is the job of companies to identify and develop this critical-to-success attribute.

It is easy to identify your top talent – the ones with high learning agility. They would display social prowess, empathy, higher tolerance for a lack of structure, and would be highly engaged. They are the ones who have promoted twice as fast as the rest, owing to their top-class performance and contribution to the company. Ideally, these qualities should be immediately recognized and highly appreciated, especially in today's business environment. The qualities mentioned are what make outstanding leaders whom every company would want to retain.

Is Learning Agility Recognized?

Despite the importance of and the easily recognizable qualities associated with high learning agility, companies seem to favor and recognize attributes and talents that are easier to measure and account for. When we say account for, we mean those that enable a company to track the development of an employee in a steady manner, and through a well-defined business structure.

The reasons for "ignoring' this attribute, up to now, are that it is difficult to classify and describe, and tough to measure. Learning agility is on the same path as emotional intelligence – everyone knows it is important but very few cultivate it or value it as much as they should. Most leaders and managers prefer to go through their workdays "fighting battles and putting out fires', without giving much thought about how they can keep crisis from happening and if they do occur, how they can use them as opportunities to grow and develop. The idea is to bring such attributes to the fore, and help companies and leaders to recognize and nurture learning agility that may exist across the workforce.

Understanding Learning Agility to Improve It

We have already discussed the mainstays of learning agility and its description. For ease of continuity, learning agility can be defined as an outlook or mind-set that supports certain practices. This in turn enables people to constantly develop, challenge status quo, and put new strategies in place to deal with increasingly complex problems within the organization. It is easy for people with high learning agility to discard irrelevant ideas and skills, and quickly learn new skills and gain more knowledge and a better perspective.

Learning agility connects with emotional intelligence, say experts

Since people with high learning agility are better at recognizing and managing their own emotions and perspectives, they have an enhanced ability to listen with empathy to the thoughts and perspectives of other people. They are also better equipped to, therefore, understand the emotions of others, and respond in the most appropriate manner. Linking these attributes can help companies work better, and focus on improving learning agility in their personnel. The idea is to enable learning agility and remove any factors that may interfere with its sustenance and growth.

Improving Learning Agility and Helping Others Build it too

As mentioned at the start, building and improving learning agility is possible and extremely beneficial. Ensuring its growth rides on several factors, according to experts, and we enlist and discuss these factors below:

Innovating and Transforming

This is about challenging and questioning traditional beliefs, assumptions, perspectives and the status quo, with a clear vision of finding better and unique ways of approaching situations and people. People with high learning agility not only seek new ideas, but are able to generate them too, since they have the ability to view things from myriad angles and a growth mind-set.

Better Performance Levels

When people challenge themselves and their shortcomings, their abilities, and knowledge are strengthened. They handle conflicts, stress, and difficult situations a lot better, thereby allowing them to learn faster, pick up new skills, and have better performance levels when compared with their co-workers.

Seeking Feedback and Learning from it

People with high learning agility actively seek feedback and learn from it. They use feedback to understand their own behavior, and other people better, and as a result become more insightful, empathetic, and knowledgeable about others and their problems. Strong self and environmental awareness are among the top catalysts for success.

Risk Taking

High learning agility prods people to seek challenges and venture into "unknown areas', putting themselves in the midst of unfamiliar situations. They do this to learn something new, and grab "strange' and exciting opportunities, not just for thrill of it. They consistently move out of their comfort zone, learning, building confidence, and developing mental strength and ability.

Helping Others to Build Learning Agility

With so much instability and volatility in the business world today, a handful of people with gumption would not be enough to tide over challenges. Hence, people with high learning agility not only utilize their abilities to help themselves and the company, they also help their co-workers to discover their strengths and utilize them to the full.

They help others see the potential of learning agility thereby, encouraging them to build, grow, and use it to their advantage and for business success.

Do Not Place Blame or Become Defensive

People with high learning agility grow this skill by remaining answerable if something were to go amiss. They are willing to accept their failure or fault in case of a blunder, and then use their mistakes to become better next time.

Intuition to be Trusted

One of the best ways to build learning agility is to trust one's intuition. This means recalling and thinking through the similarities and differences between situations and projects, rather than behaving aggressively or reacting without thinking.

Reflect and Explore

Enhancing learning agility is completely about learning, and learning only happens when people reflect on what may have gone by, and explore better ways of managing similar and new circumstances. Their mind is always open, such that they learn from anyone and any situation. They also remain mindful to reflect consistently on their own behavior and attitude.


The underlying premise of learning agility is constant learning and growth. People "high' on this ability, make time to experiment – searching for new ways to address a problem or demolish a challenge.

A setback is never a failure for such people, but rather acts an accelerator to reduce the possibilities of failing and a stepping-stone for advancement in a person's career.

Closing Words

Companies and businesses today are using the latest technology and tools, attempting to reinvent and simplify their processes and operations. In order to keep pace with these evolving techniques, companies need smart people – people who would learn quickly, put their learning to good use, think on their feet, and consistently keep up with changes. Companies that can move faster than their competitors, are more likely to find success, and maintain their front-runner status for a long time.

In order to reap the benefits of learning agility, a company, and its people must be willing to improve this skill over time, and this would require consistent effort and robust commitment. Learning agility is most definitely an asset, which must exist in every company today.

To improve this ability over time, a company must proactively identify the individuals with this ability, and create career paths within the organization to nurture their skill and gain the maximum out of their efforts. Companies need to change as well, becoming more adaptable, flexible, and build high responsiveness to change and duress. Both companies and individuals must practice learning agility, such that success would be guaranteed even in the most difficult times, and despite the fiercest of competitors.

Ketan Kapoor

Co-Founder and CEO, Mettl

Ketan Kapoor, one of the co-founders and CEO of Mettl, is part of a growing breed of highly qualified entrepreneurs. An IIT-IIM alumnus, he has the unusual distinction of having spent most of his career at startups. 

Ketan holds an Engineering degree from IIT- Roorkee (1997-2001) and an MBA from IIM Calcutta (2002-2004). Before co-founding Mettl, Ketan led the marketing division at Isango, helping turn the start-up into one of the world's premier sellers of tours, trips & activities. 

He was also instrumental in setting up the eco-system for India's first mobile payment & transaction platform in Indepay networks. As CEO, Ketan brings a wealth of focus, drive and energy to the Mettl team.

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