For the last few months, I’ve been writing a series of Insights about learning agility and the work that my firm, EASI·Consult, has done on the topic 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.
In this series on learning agility, I’m providing a close-up view of what each of the nine dimension looks like in situations at work and outside of work. In this column, I’m going to address the dimension of Speed
Burke defines Speed as acting on ideas quickly so that those not working are discarded and other possibilities are accelerated.
Here’s an example of Speed from David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers. It appears on pages 61 and 62 of his book. To set the scene for you, Otto Lilienthal, one of the premier German glider enthusiasts of the day, had written down various formulas and relationships before his premature death. The Wright brothers tried using one of these relationships.
“Wilbur went again. And again. Several times the same experience was repeated with the same result. … The adjustments of the machine are way off, Orville explained to Katherine
(his sister). The curvature or ‘camber’ of the wings, from the leading edges to the rear, was too great and had to be changed. ... Lilienthal had recommended, about 1 to 12, whereas for their glider of the year before, Machine No. 1, the brothers had used a ratio of 1 to 22.
“They stopped gliding for several days to rebuild – flatten – the wings back to a camber close to what it had been in 1900. The successful tests flown with the reconstructed wings took place on August 8. The following day Wilbur was back at the controls and in the air once more. But again there were problems, this time of a different and even more troubling kind.
“Their wing warp system of which the brothers were so proud was not responding as expected and they couldn’t understand why …
“On August 20 … Wilbur and Orville were on their way home … It was not just that their machine had performed poorly … calculations and tables prepared by Lilienthal, Langley and Canute … had proven to be wrong and could no longer be trusted.”
Now let’s return to learning agility and the dimension of Speed. I’m going to take you through a fictitious example involving Marta, a very meticulous and well-regarded lab technician. She has been working for weeks on a set of experiments where she is trying to eliminate different variables so that she can isolate the critical variable. Each day and week that goes by are costing her company thousands of dollars. Some of Marta’s peers think that many of her trials are unnecessary. In her peer’s minds she is not demonstrating Speed.
In our second example, Marta attends a class at work where she takes and gets feedback on her learning agility. Her lowest score on the Burke LAI is on the dimension of Speed. She speaks with the instructor and tells her that she believes the low score is accurate. Marta decides to share her Burke LAI results with her supervisor.
Marta and her supervisor sit down and review all the data she had collected on her project to date. They determine that she is looking at 10 different variables. Up to this point she has been conducting 10 separate experiments, one for each variable. There is an element that is common to 5 of the 10 variables. If this element is identified in an experiment with one variable, it is not necessary to conduct experiments with the other four; they can be eliminated. This change in approach will allow Marta to reduce the number of experiments she conducts by 70 percent. This will allow Marta to do deeper research in the areas where this overarching element appears and have those results in about 20 percent less time. Marta and her supervisor agree on a new accelerated research plan and to meet in one month to review how it is working.
This is an example of Speed 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.