Earlier this month, I wrote about Interpersonal Risk Taking, a dimension of learning agility. My firm, EASI·Consult, is doing work 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, appropriately called the Burke Learning Agility Inventory (Burke LAI). Learning agility is seen as being closely related to leadership potential. There are nine dimensions to the Burke LAI:
- Performance Risk Taking
- Interpersonal Risk Taking
- Information Gathering
- Feedback Seeking.
As I promised when I began this series of articles, I’m going to take a closer examination this month at one specific dimension – Performance Risk Taking – and what it looks like in situations at work and outside of work.
Burke defines Performance Risk Taking as seeking new activities (approaches and ideas, for example) to determine what is effective.
Here’s an example of Performance Risk Taking from David McCullough’s book, The Wright Brothers. In this passage, it is 1901 and the Wright Brothers’ reputation is continuing to grow. One of the top experts in this burgeoning field, Octave Chanute, asks Wilbur Wright to speak at an important professional meeting.
“At the end of August came an invitation from Octave Chanute for Wilbur to address the Western Society of Engineers in Chicago on the subject of gliding experiments. It was his first request to speak in public, and he was extremely reluctant to accept, feeling the date set, September 18, left too little time to prepare anything of substance. But Katherine Wright ‘nagged’ him into going. That Wilbur might prove a poor speaker seems never to have entered her thoughts.
“… How he felt was another matter. Octave Chanute had written to inquire whether he would mind if the meeting of the society was designated ‘Ladies Night.’ Wilbur had replied it was not for him to decide. ‘I will already be as badly scared as it is possible for a man to be.’ Asked by Katherine and Orville whether his talk would be scientific or witty, he said, ‘Pathetic.’
“….The speech Wilbur delivered – modestly titled ‘Some Aeronautical Experiments’ – would be quoted again and again for years to come. Published first in the society’s journal, it appeared in full or part in The Engineering Magazine, Scientific American, the magazine Flying, and the Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution. In the words of a latter-day aeronautics specialist at the Library of Congress, the speech was ‘the Book of Genesis’ of the twentieth-century Bible of Aeronautics.
“It was authentic Wilbur Wright, straightforward and clear.”
Now I’m going to go to back to learning agility and Performance Risk Taking. In this first fictitious example, Diego is a line operator at a manufacturing facility. His company is trying to decide whether or not to modernize the plant. At this same time, Diego is wrestling with his own decision to keep doing what he is doing or to move into a supervisory role.
Diego was a line operator on a production line. He was seen as one of the best performers in his area. His company had been around for 50 years and had been very successful. Senior management had realized that they either needed to modernize Diego’s plant and its production facilities or close it and open a new plant. They decided to modernize. Diego was feeling restless in his current role and that he was not being challenged. He knew his next step was supervision but he didn’t know if he would like managing people.
In our second example, the company decides to go forward with modernizing. Diego attends a training class where he is introduced to the Burke LAI.
He learns he needs to strengthen his Performance Risk Taking. He and his supervisor discuss his career interests, and attempt to address that issue and the learning agility dimension he needs to strengthen.
There was a lot of activity in the plant surrounding the modernization. The production people had a training day built into their schedules every two weeks. The most recent session focused on learning agility (since learning was going to be a big part of the modernization) and people took and received feedback on the Burke LAI. Diego’s lowest score came back as Performance Risk Taking. He and his supervisor talked about the results, along with Diego’s restlessness, and they came up with a plan. Production goals would remain the same during the modernization process, which meant that people would be doing two jobs. Workers would have their regular job and then need to work on starting up the new lines. There was going to be a need for temporary team leads to oversee and manage groups while new lines were being checked out and brought online. This was a chance for Diego to work as a temporary supervisor. He eagerly accepted the opportunity. He and his supervisor agreed that they would meet weekly during his “team lead” time to discuss what was working or not working and help him decide if this was something he wanted to pursue on a permanent basis.
This is an example of Performance Risk Taking in action.
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.