“Describe your ideal job,” said Bob Suttles, the then-vice president of HR for Central Florida’s 5,000-employee Health First organization.
Thrilled that a leader in that type of influential role would pose such a question, I described that job on the spot with clarity and passion—and Bob’s response was something along the lines of, “Well, guess what we have available?”
Two weeks later that “ideal job was mine.”
It was no accident or simple stroke of luck; at least, not luck alone. I’d invested considerable time that year (2005) contemplating the next phase of my career. I was working in financial services after transitioning out of church ministry, and found that the volunteer coaching, facilitating, and public speaking I was doing “on the side” was more fulfilling than my “day job.” In fact, the comparison wasn’t even close.
Health First offered me a position that paid me for those same types of enjoyable activities and I was beyond grateful. My networking had paid off.
But getting the job was the easy part. I lacked HR-specific education or previous experience working in an HR department. I also lacked experience working with physicians, nurses, and administrators in the healthcare field, and was unfamiliar with established leadership development and coaching frameworks and processes.
So I embraced the same approach I took to previous professional jobs toward which I lacked enough preparation (spoiler alert: all of them!): I learned on the job, sought and received mentoring from my manager, read books on the side, and rapidly networked across the organization.
My “learning agility” was paying off as well.
Learning agility is the practice of regularly seeking new experiences, applying feedback, and reflecting on lessons learned, to keep growing professionally and personally. It’s the ability to learn quickly, adapt to new situations, and apply knowledge effectively in diverse contexts.
Developing learning agility is crucial in today’s rapidly changing world, as noted in this LinkedIn article. Once it becomes an internalized habit, learning agility practitioners will increasingly stand out as valuable talent for any organization.
I’ve been fortunate enough to successfully embrace learning agility during critical moments of my career, such as during 2005 leading up that conversation with Bob. I had plenty of motivation and passion for each new challenge, but also considerable uncertainty and fear of failure.
What I’ve learned, holistically, is that however ill-prepared I feel for a new challenge, I can rise to meet it; not necessarily with immediate results, but with positive outcomes and a deep sense of satisfaction across time. In fact, I don’t think any of us are ever “ready enough” for the next big thing we tackle, and maybe that’s the point: doing things that stretch and even scare us, for the satisfaction of learning, new relationships, and accomplishing what we weren’t sure we could do.
Learning Agility and AI
AI can play a significant role in enhancing learning agility for human beings, helping individuals adapt to new information, technologies, and skills effectively.
For example, AI can analyze individual learning styles, preferences, and performance to recommend personalized learning paths. Individuals can then receive customized content and experiences that align with their unique needs and accelerate their learning.
Another example: AI can analyze learning data to predict emerging trends and skills that will be in demand. Learners receive insights into future skills, allowing them to proactively acquire knowledge that aligns with evolving industry requirements.
First, reflect on your own career or life milestones. When did you have to really stretch yourself and apply some learning agility? How did you feel when you accepted the challenge, and what was it like once you realized you’d developed momentum, a comfort level, or even expertise?
Next, consider your current extent of “continuous learning.” What more could you do to stay informed about industry trends, new technologies, and emerging concepts? What workshops, webinars, and conferences could you attend to expand your knowledge? to expand your knowledge base regularly.
And how could AI play a role in expediting your learning and making it even more targeted and specific?
Contact me regarding the four services (coaching, consulting, speaking, or writing) that I’ve developed across several decades; due, especially to constantly growing my learning agility: