Can learning agility be taught in business schools?

Can learning agility be taught in business schools?
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Highlights

Learning agility is one of the most important leadership capabilities that one must have in order to be successful at running his or her business in today’s competitive environment.

Learning agility is one of the most important leadership capabilities that one must have in order to be successful at running his or her business in today's competitive environment. Learning agility by definition is the amalgamation of three important components – potential to learn, motivation to learn, and the adaptability to learn.

With these components, a person is able to analyse problems quickly and in an accurate way while comprehending information and complexity. An agile learner is always curious about new challenges and opportunities with flexibility in his or her problem-solving approach. They are eager and willing to search for newer ways and lessons while learning to improve their ability to deal with all future obstacles and challenges.

It is a general belief that learning agility is a capability that cannot be taught. While there are experts who agree on its importance, there are the sceptics who believe that it is a capability that one is born with.

However, now there is a growing trend with institutions and organizations going the extra mile to tackle with the problem of cultivating learning agility among students and employees. Many papers are now also being published by top universities guiding the organizations across the globe on how to go about the route of inculcating the three components of learning agility among their students and employees.

The first step in the process is to identify the 'potential to learn' and hone it as a skill. The way of looking at a situation or a problem must be changed from the 'fixed route' to a more independent and creative route. This is where business schools can help students by encouraging them to change the 'lens' through which they look at a problem and start analysing each situation in an independent way and come up with a creative and unique solution.

The institute can encourage the future world leaders to review and discuss case studies; identify and assess POAs; evaluate each for and against argument critically to zero-in on errors and inconsistencies; use rational, systematic, and logical problem-solving approaches; justify their ideas, and seek out different perspectives. As a business school, it is an organization's responsibility to improve its students' 'potential to learn' through apt training and shadowing practices.

Once the 'potential to learn' component has been understood and honed, it is time for the 'motivation to learn' to be taken into consideration. One of the most effective ways to motivate the students to learn is by gamifying the process. Since childhood, a person is often taught to be motivated by rewards or simply by role-playing activities.

Thus, as B-School students, individuals are known to be more motivated to participate in programs aimed at the development that involve game-playing techniques of scoring, rules, and healthy competition.

The main goal of the 'motivation to learn' component is to allow the students, the future leaders of the world, to be more involved and invested in the success of the project at hand. In-house meetings, inter-university conferences, guest lectures, and other techniques of networking are some ways of motivating the students by bringing them in touch with the educational and professional world outside the four walls of the university.

'Adaptability to learn' refers to the capability that an individual requires to learn and achieve better results. B-schools help in this case by assessing and determining if a student is ready with skills to learn and improve his/her efficiency or if he/she requires more new and improved ways to do the same.

Building the 'adaptability to learn' may at first seem like a tedious task but there are several ways in which an institution can go about it.

As an educational institute, a business school can help the students assess their current standing as well as their future prospects. By reflecting on the previously mentioned two situations, one can devise techniques and approaches that will come in handy while dealing with obstacles that they are not familiar with.

(The author is the Senior Director at Institute of Management Studies (IMS) Noida and Alumni of Harvard University(HKS))

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