In an Insights that appeared in April, I wrote about the work that my firm, EASI·Consult, has done on the topic of learning agility with Warner Burke, Ph.D., a professor and researcher at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Burke has created and validated a test that measures learning agility, which is appropriately called the Burke Learning Agility Inventory (BLAI). Learning agility is seen as being closely related to leadership potential. There are nine dimensions to the BLAI:
- Performance Risk Taking
- Interpersonal Risk Taking
- Information Gathering
- Feedback Seeking
In my April Insights, I promised to explain more about each of the nine dimensions and provide an example of what each looks like in situations at work and outside of work.
In this Insights, I’m going to address experimenting. Burke defines experimenting as trying out new behaviors (approaches or ideas) to determine what is effective.
Here’s an example of experimenting from David McCullough’s book, The Wright Brothers. To set the scene for you, the Wright Brothers are about to launch their glider into the wind.
“But no sooner was the machine up than it nosed straight into the ground only a few yards from where it started. Wilbur, it seemed, had positioned himself too far forward. In a second try, having shifted back a bit, he did no better. Finally, after several more failed attempts, he moved back nearly a foot from where he started and sailed off more than 100 yards.
“To all present but Wilbur and Orville this flight seemed a huge success. To the brothers it was disappointing. The machine had not performed as expected, not, in fact, as well as the one of the year before. Wilbur had had to use the full power of the rudder to keep from plowing into the ground or rising so high as to lose headway. Something was 'radically wrong.'
“In a glide later the same day, the machine kept rising higher and higher till it lost all headway, exactly 'the fix' that plunged Otto Lilienthal to his death. Responding to a shout from Orville, Wilbur turned the rudder to its full extent and only then did the glider settle slowly to the ground, maintaining a horizontal position almost perfectly, and landing with no damage or injury.”
Now I'm going to leave the Wright Brothers and turn back to learning agility and experimenting. I’m going to take you through a fictional example of experimenting that involves Arturo, an accountant at a high tech firm that has been in business for 10 years.
Arturo has been with the company and in his current role for two years. He was trained for his job by the woman who started the department. He and his colleagues accept that the process for consolidating and reporting information that they were taught. His customers often have difficulty interpreting the information, as the format that they use for all lines of business works less well in some of the new lines of business. Arturo sees his boss as his primary customer, and as long as she is happy with what he is providing, he is not inclined to make changes.
In our second example, Arturo’s supervisor meets with him to discuss a report that was generated after Arturo took the Burke Learning Agility Inventory. His supervisor focuses on how Arturo can use the information at work.
Arturo attended the company’s new class on culture. He completed the BLAI and received feedback. His lowest score was on the experimenting dimension. He confirms this is not something he is inclined to do on the job. He and his boss sit down and discuss his BLAI report. She gives him permission to go talk to their customers – the receiver of the report – and ask for three things they would like to see in the report that they are not getting currently. Arturo agrees to come back and review the customers’ “wants” with his boss before changing the report.
He and his boss agree on the changes and he goes ahead and makes them. Arturo and his boss agree to sit down and discuss how his “experimenting” went. What went well? What would he do differently the next time? Before the conversation is over, they find another opportunity for Arturo to experiment in his job.
This is an example of experimenting and how Arturo can use it to grow in his work as an accountant.
EASI•Consult® works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. EASI•Consult’s specialties include leadership assessment, online pre-employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about EASI•Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email [email protected] or call 800.922.EASI.