It’s always interesting to look at conference themes to get a sense of the trends and important topics. Agility was an undercurrent that caught my attention at the ASTD International Conference & Expo (ICE). Once John Seely Brown addressed the topic in his keynote presentation, I noticed the concept in many places. Dr. Brown spoke of entrepreneurial learners who embody the agility to learn in any situation or environment.
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Agility: Why Now?
It seems like agility in learning and performance has always been a good quality, so what makes this a hot topic now? The answer is simple: We are living in a time of radical change due to powerful advances in computation abilities. In the past, periods of technological advancement were followed by periods of stability where industry and society had time to adapt to change and figure out how to apply new technologies. Today we see change happening so quickly that we don’t have time to embrace one new development before the next one is upon us. Just think about the push for lighter, smaller, faster, and more mobile computing. If you develop elearning or m-learning, you know how challenging it is to keep up with changes in delivery platform requirements.
Knowledge Acquisition in an Agile World
The rate of change in the business world demands continuous learning. Workers don’t always have time to wait for formal face-to-face training. Employees are often seeking and building their own knowledge and skills by going online. The popular 70/20/10 Model indicates that only 10 percent of work knowledge comes from formal courses. E-learning in the form of demonstrations (e.g., lynda.com), videos (e.g., YouTube), and customized training; fills an essential need for on-demand, self-directed learning.
Effective knowledge acquisition in our rapidly changing world is happening in short bursts designed to teach small chunks of information per module. This is effective because it gives the learner time to apply new knowledge without being overwhelmed with extraneous material.
Dispositions of Entrepreneurial Learners
John Seely Brown identified dispositions of entrepreneurial learners. These dispositions are important for developing a workforce that will grow with the changing times. He noted that the dispositions cannot be taught, but can be cultivated.
- Questioning – having a probing and curious mind
- Connecting – learning with others
- Reflecting – especially with a cohort for self-evaluation
- Playing – being experimental and unafraid to fail
Organizations that want to thrive will find ways to support the dispositions of entrepreneurial learners. Dr. Brown cited Google’s 20 percent time policy as an example of supporting agile, entrepreneurial learning. Engineers are allowed to spend 20 percent of their time working on projects of their own initiative. This policy enables improvements in Google offerings. The dispositions of entrepreneurial learners allow advances to occur, as does easy access to online training resources.
In the elearning world, we can support entrepreneurial learners (and their workplaces) by having resources available at the moment of need to nurture the desire for improvement.