The Dark Side of Learning Agility

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a Conference Board event in New York City which focused heavily on talent management strategy, and many of the sessions were insightful. A presentation by Korn/Ferry covered a hot topic in the talent management circles these days – learning agility. As defined by Korn/Ferry, learning agility is a professional’s ability and willingness to learn from experience, and subsequently apply that learning to perform successfully under new or first-time conditions. Agile learners possess innate tendencies that position them for success in leadership role. Professionals with high learning agility are described as people who…

  • Continuously seek new challenges
  • Solicit direct feedback
  • Self-reflect
  • Think critically in first-time situations
  • Work well with all kinds of people
  • Thrive on change

Korn/Ferry measures learning agility through an assessment, and participants are scored on 5 dimensions: Self-awareness, Mental Agility, People Agility, Change Agility, and Results Agility. Although Hogan does not have a separate assessment to measure Learning Agility and its 5 dimensions, I do think a savvy Hogan interpreter can find intuitive connections between the 5 learning agility dimensions and Hogan’s HPI scales. I’ll save a full mapping Hogan to learning agility for another blog post.

In my opinion, Korn/Ferry’s philosophy is solid and makes intuitive sense, but is slightly flawed. Is there such a thing as the dark side of learning agility? Here at Hogan, we think too much of a good thing can derail one’s career. This can be especially true of agile learners, who constantly seek new knowledge in several areas. Although they take initiative, possess a broad-range of knowledge, and are generally curious people, they might also be described as arrogant or know-it-alls. Perhaps the agile learner is willing to apply only his knowledge or ideas, which can create a reputation of being difficult to work with and stubborn. I believe too much learning agility can derail an agile learner’s career. Have you ever met someone who seems to know everything about everything? Has anyone observed a derailing, agile learner?