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Human Resources
Apr 15, 2016

Reflecting Is The First Dimension Of Learning Agility

Sponsored Content provided by Dave Hoff - Chief Operating Officer and Executive VP of Leadership Development, EASI Consult

In an Insights earlier this month, 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:

  1. Reflecting
  2. Experimenting
  3. Performance Risk Taking
  4. Interpersonal Risk Taking
  5. Collaborating
  6. Information Gathering
  7. Flexibility
  8. Speed
  9. Feedback Seeking
In my earlier April Insights, I promised to explain more about each of the nine dimensions, providing a look at what each looks like in situations at work and outside of work.
In this column, I’m going to address reflecting. Burke defines reflecting as slowing down to evaluate one’s own performance to be more effective.
Here’s an example of reflecting from David McCullough’s book, The Wright Brothers. Wilbur Wright is watching and taking notes on the flights of bird at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
“But how did the soaring bird use the wind, and wind only, to sail aloft and bank and turn as it wished? Buzzards were masters of the art.
"The dihedral angle, a shallow V-shape, of the wings was an advantage only in still air," Wilbur wrote in his notebook.
"The buzzard which uses the dihedral angle finds greater difficulty to maintain equilibrium in strong winds than eagles and hawks which hold their wings level.
"The hen hawk can rise faster than the buzzard and its motion is steadier. It displays less effort in maintaining its balance.
"Hawks are better soarers than buzzards but more often resort to flapping because they wish greater speed.
"A damp day is unfavorable for soaring unless there is high wind.
"No bird soars in a calm.
All soarers, but especially the buzzard, seem to keep their fore-and-aft balance more by shifting the center of resistance than by shifting the center of lift,” Wilbur wrote.
Wilbur also wrote:
“If a buzzard be soaring to leeward of the observer, at a distance of a thousand feet … the cross section of its wings will be a mere line when the bird is moving from the observer but when it moves toward him the wings appear broad. This would indicate that its wings are always inclined upward, which seems contrary to reason.
"A bird when soaring does not seem to alternately rise and fall as some observers thought. Any rising or falling is irregular and seems to be disturbances of fore-and-aft equilibrium produced by gusts. In light winds the birds seem to rise constantly with any downward turns.”
“Learning the secret of flight from a bird,” Orville would say, “was a good deal like learning the secret of magic from a magician.”
Now back to learning agility and reflecting. I’m going to take you through an example involving Greg, an operator on a production line who does not use reflecting in a situation at work.
Greg’s line produces aluminum cans for the beverage industry. A production report is created on the line’s performance along certain metrics (output and rejects, for example) for the shift, the week and the month. This information is shared with Greg in a weekly production meeting. The team doesn’t do anything with the information. It is just reported and filed. There are graphs that show the week-to-week performance, but no one ever discusses the information. Greg is someone who is seen as doing his job.
In our second example, Greg’s supervisor meets with him to discuss a report that was generated after Greg took the Burke Learning Agility Inventory. His supervisor focuses on how Greg can use the information at work.
Greg’s score on the BLAI for reflecting was at the 30th percentile, which is pretty low. Greg’s supervisor asks him if he thinks the score is accurate, and why he feels that way. He also asks Greg to think of opportunities to reflect in his current role, and to provide specific examples.
Greg suggests that after each shift he could take 10 minutes to write down what went well on the shift and what could have been better. He said that he and his boss could discuss his list once a week and see if there was something they could do to improve efficiency or reduce waste. Greg also suggested bringing his list of reflections to the weekly production meeting so his team could discuss ways they could work together to improve efficiency or reduce waste.

This is an example of reflecting, and how Greg can use it to grow in his work as an operator.
EASI•Consult® works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. EASI•Consult’s specialties include individual assessment, online 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, email [email protected] or call 1-800-922-EASI.

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