Agile learning: why necessity may be the mother of invention

Sam’s learning to do the accounts. There’s no avoiding it anymore. As he said last night, ‘it’s a bit boring, but when you get into it, it’s quite exciting‘. If nothing else, Sam is methodical, so it’s typical that his approach is to listen to some podcasts, ask for advice, read some books, try things out. He is an agile learner.

And whilst he may not be an expert accountant (yet), he is an expert learner. Over the years, he’s finely tuned and honed his methodologies for learning, meaning that when necessity demands, he’s ready. We can, if you like, separate our mechanisms for learning from the subject matter that we are going to learn. It is possible to be an expert learner without being an actual expert! Knowledge is no longer enough.

Today, our value lies more in our agility than our actual knowledge: our ability to find things our, to work within our personal learning networks, to create value through action, to learn. It’s great to be an expert, but it’s not enough: expertise goes out of date if we are not agile. Our ability to transform, to deliver change and deliver results, these are what count.

The move towards a more social world, towards a place where our learning communities and activities transcend time and place, transcend organisational boundaries make us more agile and better able to adapt, or at least it does if we are able to respond.

Our organisational stance towards learning and development needs to take this change into account. Our mindset needs to be less about individual training projects and performance management and more about holistic views of change, flexible leadership structures (to reflect agile expertise) and greater ability to respond to change at speed. So much organisational structure is around control that we can fail to recognise the value of letting things go.

Innovation and creativity are functions of freedom, of the ability to play, experiment and fail, to learn through doing this and to develop our actual capacity to learn. If we just assess people to pass or fail, or if we fail to create space for experimentation, then we inhibit the ability of both people and organisations to develop, to change, to remain relevant in todays world that rewards agility.

Just as Sam recognises the need to adapt, to develop, so too do organisations need to. Remaining the same is not an option: but are we flexible enough, agile enough, to support and allow the learning that will keep us ahead?

Adopting and embracing social learning spaces, joining in these conversations, nurturing and developing individual capability (social capital) in these spaces and actually listening to the learning that is narrated out of it, these are the marks of an agile organisation.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
This entry was posted in 'Just in time' learning, Agile, Experience, Information, Innovation, Knowledge, Leadership, Learning, Narrative, Social Capital, Social Learning and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Agile learning: why necessity may be the mother of invention

  1. Pingback: Agile learning: why necessity may be the mother of invention | elearning&knowledge_management |

  2. Dave Thorne says:

    Hello Julian.
    I’m new to your blogs and am enjoying them.
    I get a lot from your anecdotal writing; the relationship between ‘story’ and a ‘lesson’ is one which harks back through centuries, pre-dating the written word.
    I have found this post on agile learning harder to take on board than the pieces which are framed within the context of real-life scenario.
    Having read a recent non-constructive criticism posted on Facebook, I thought it might be useful to comment more constructively – I hope I ‘add value’.
    Clearly there cannot be a real life story, analogy or anecdote to accompany every script on your blog. When there isn’t, the reader may require help to remain engaged; some of us require more than others!
    I’ve been reading ‘Writing For Engineers’ recently, which contains many useful pointers on style, punctuation, grammar and so forth, but if I was to pick one it would be the chapter on semi-colons. These wee beasties have been my nemesis since I began writing. Recently I have been using them more and more, whilst of course taking care not to overdo it.
    Tonight, I read Gumdrop and the Monster to Albert (2 years 360 days old). There is exemplary use of the semi-colon within the first page. I was unable to effectively draw this to Albert’s attention for comment but I have no doubt that, on this occasion, semi-colons enhanced his enjoyment of the story no end.
    Albert will one day verify my endorsement; until then, you’ll have to take my word for it.
    Best regards,
    Dave ‘punc-nerd’ Thorne

    • julianstodd says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Dave – it’s interesting to know how these things land. My writing tends to be varied around the core topic of ‘learning’. I draw a lot of my inspiration from everyday conversations and the things that i see in the world around me (both in my professional practice and my social worlld). Sometimes this is very anecdotal, at other times, more technical or reflective. There are a few recurring themes, such as the occasional ‘words about learning…’ series and some collections (like the Amsterdam diary (five days exploring learning culture) and the Singapore diary (five days exploring learning, knowledge and meaning).

      Regular readers will notice that some themes are recurrent and, hopefully, iterative: ideas take shape and develop. I use a number of social learning spaces to develop my professional practice. The learning forum on LinkedIn in my research space, where i do some data gathering and interpretation of results. This blog is my reflective space, where ideas are developed over time. There is no particular agenda to is, although i govern it by the rules: to be collaborative and to never be negative. If i don’t have something positive or useful to say, then i won’t say anything.

      The blog leads into the subjects of my Webinars and Podcasts, as well as, ultimately, my Conference sessions and consultancy. The books are my ‘collected’ thoughts, they are my narrative space where i try to draw the learning together.

      It’s an evolving picture though… I doubt whether anyone would be engaged with everything i write, but i hope to keep it close enough to ‘learning’ that there is a clear common thread.


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