The story of learning is best embodied by a middle-aged man in 1920s America. After losing his father at the age of 5, the first son in the family had to learn many skills to feed his siblings. He had his first job at the age of 10, where he worked in a farm. Afterward, he accumulated tons of experience, as he had worked as a farmer, a streetcar conductor, a soldier, an insurance salesman, a steamboat ferry company manager, a secretary, a railroad man, and a lawyer. In the early 1920s, however, his lawyering practice was done after he got into a fight with a client.
In the year 1929, just at the dawn of the Great Depression, the man made another leap of faith and once again became an entrepreneur. He opened a gas station along US Route 25 in Corbin, and shortly after, a small restaurant. Serving southern specialty dishes, his restaurant gradually became popular, so he had to move to a bigger place. With a lot of experience, he could’ve confidently managed the place himself and stuck with his cooking. But he didn’t. He took an 8-week management course from Cornell University… and about 11 years to perfect his dish.
At this point you might ask, is it really necessary to spend so much time, energy, and money to learn more skills when you’ve already become so experienced? Definitely yes, especially when we’re all living in the 21st century, where changes happen rapidly and constantly. The World Economic Forum predicted that from 2021 to 2026, 85 million jobs will be lost and 97 million jobs will replace them. This is why learning is always important. So how should we learn to adapt to today’s demands? Answer: by having learning agility.
What is Learning Agility?
Simply put, it’s the ability to be agile in our process of learning. Forbes.com eloquently describes learning agility as the capability of learning, unlearning, and re-learning. Another definition from Mettl.com points out that learning agility allows us to gather insights from past experience and apply them in a context where we explore unfamiliar territories. People with high learning agility can quickly pick up new skills, learn from mistakes, self-monitor their performance, and adapt to unfamiliar situations. These people can easily upskill and reskill themselves.
Upskilling and Reskilling
We’ve actually written a whole article about upskilling and reskilling if you want a more in-depth discussion on that, but simply put, upskilling and reskilling are two different skills we all need to develop ourselves and our careers. When you upskill, you upgrade your existing skills. Reskilling, on the other hand, allows you to learn a completely new set of skills required to face new challenges. If you have high learning agility, make sure you regularly upskill and reskill yourself.
The demands that await in our future are no joke. The World Economic Forum’s prediction mentioned that 80% of business owners plan to accelerate their digitization by incorporating new technologies. We need to upskill and reskill to stay relevant in the digital age. In fact, over the next 5 years, approximately 50% of all workers need to reskill themselves to remain in their position. These figures point to an obvious fact: that to survive, let alone succeed, one must keep on evolving. And in the era of information and opportunities, evolving equals learning.
Learning Agility Pays Off
Even if you’re a person with high learning agility, there might be moments where the learning curve could feel so steep. But it’s always important to remind ourselves that learning will always reward us in the end. Remember the man who started managing a restaurant in 1929? He reskilled himself in management since he had never managed a bigger diner before. He upskilled his cooking so that customers didn’t have to wait for 45 minutes for his chicken. Long story short, his restaurant became a global sensation, and today it’s worth 5.1 billion dollars.
So if you ever doubt the value of learning agility, just remember the story of Colonel Sanders.
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