I have always considered myself a “slow” learner, who takes a little more time to learn, to adapt or to become proficient than others. Such discovery is not something that stimulates self-loathing out of me or shuts me down and traps me into bed shielding me from day-to-day tasks, at least not anymore. Instead, I have somehow accepted it as one of many characteristics of mine and have figured out how to carry it with me into the action of adapting and coping the waves of challenge that I face both in pursue of academic research and in real life. Besides accepting this negative trait, I have struggled to improve from it. The class of MGMT 5050 gave me a direction to break through from such struggle: instead of carrying this trait, I could spend my energy on learning how to learn first. The research article learning about learning agility has perfectly quantified studying methods and has provided a ruler to measure one’s forte and demerit as a learner. The five facets that include innovating, performing, reflecting, risking and defending have characterized what one should and shouldn’t do in order to improve learning agility.
I fully agree with the article when it suggests generating new ideas and solutions in learning strategy, but what I want to discuss and reflect on myself about innovation is not in the perspective of finding alternative ideas. From my understanding of the article Learning about learning agility, on some level, innovation means challenging the authority, which in many cases is the provider of the status quo. When I was reading the part of article about innovate, a recent incident happened in the skill development workshop came into my mind. It was the week when the class needed to form groups for the second writing assignment, being one of the few who didn’t have any close friends in the class, I was stuck with two others who also seemed left out. The situation made me feel like I had no choice to select teammates. After the cession I went home feeling desperate because one of my teammates seemed wasn’t trustworthy: he/she always shows up late and paying little attention to the material. “the teams formed with friends must do a better job than mine”, I thought to myself, and I wasn’t pleased with the situation because it feels unfair to me. Then I had the idea of innovating, I drafted an E-mail to professors explaining my concerns and suggestion of re-forming teams randomly for equality. But the E-mail wasn’t sent eventually, I decided to make the best outcome with what I had. By putting lots of effort into the assignment, I realized my teammates were doing the same, we had a great time working together and all were pleased with the paper we wrote, it turned out to be a much better experience than I’d thought. From such experience, I realized innovation and try to change the existing situation are not always the only better solution, make do with what you have and try your best might just generate an also great outcome.
Woody Allen once said: 80% of success is showing up. Here, showing up means to be constantly engaged with others, obtain new information and ideas. The same concept is introduced in the article learning about learning agility: performing. The article suggested that individuals needs to be able to remain present and engaged (Mitchinson and Morris, 2014). I have taken the benefit of performing from both case workshop and skill workshop, but one of the most memorable examples would be when we discussed the case of Grace in week 3. By talking to the person next me, I learned not only a new solution to the case’s problem, but also a completely different mindset, and how it could generate ideas which are brand new to me. In that case, Grace’s problem was conflict with superior, being a conservatism, I choose the safe approach to deal with the situation: abandoning Grace’s goal and listen to her boss, but the person shared with me her idea which not only achieve Grace’s goal, but could also impress her supervisor. By engaging this interesting conversation, I learned to adapt new mindset and analyze things from different angles to maximize the outcome.
The Abilene paradox introduced in week 4 of case workshop demonstrated how members of a party would “scarify” their willingness to achieve a common goal which, unpleasantly, is neither wanted. Theories such as this, besides being a great conversation topic, is a great tool for people to guide themselves through daily action and communication with others. In order to truly adapt the concept of Abilene paradox, reflecting on one’s experience and failures is needed. The power of reflecting is demonstrated in the article Learning about learning agility: They generate deeper insight into themselves, others, and problems as a result. In my future development, either in academic pursuit or in my career, team work will be required, without reflecting on what I learned about the Abilene paradox, it can be nothing but a conversational piece with my peers, but if I can put it into use as a guidance, I’ll be able to prevent any similar negativity from happening, therefore increase my team’s work efficiency.
According to Mitchinson and Morris, risking in learning is a concept that requires individuals to stepping to outside of their comfort zone. It expresses similar idea with performing in the sense of “showing up” and engaging with outside world, but it is more than that, it means seeking for opportunity even when success is not guaranteed. As an international student, I relate my experience to such concept and agree with it. Coming to a completely different society and culture, we sometimes take the risk of conflicting with others due to cultural differences when communicating, but high risks comes with high benefits, it has been so rewarding to me to observe and interreact with these people. The cultural experiment we participated in skill workshop is a great demonstration of the experience we had as international students. Personally, I am not good at communicating with others, nor do I often willing to. To me the comfort zone is me and my close friends. But the cultural experiment put me into a position where interaction with strangers is required, and it was rewarding. By observing other team’s waves of “intrusion” to our protective group, it reminded me years ago when I first took a leap of faith into a completely unknow country and started my journey. Looking back, I’ve gained so much from such experience. Besides academic achievements, I’ve developed a mindset that I wouldn’t have if I have stayed in my comfort zone.
Being a defensive person, the agile learning “derailer” was immediately recognized and related by me. Not open to suggestions and criticisms is the reason why I am such a “slow” learner, because I’d rather take longer to find out my mistakes by myself than accept feed backs from others. One of things I learned from case workshop is that stubbornness not only lead people towards decrease in efficiency, but it could also destroy the entire project that one is working on. The case that was introduced in week 6: Wal-Mart: The store wars presented how unwilling to accept criticisms can cause such chaos. In the article, the community of Inglewood had expressed the reasons they didn’t want Wal-Mart to open a local store: low wages and benefits to the labor, extermination of local small businesses and community centers and so on. As a multi-national retail giant, Wal-Mart certainly couldn’t immediately improve itself from such critics, but a good public relation strategy should directly address these issues recognized by the community and show a welcome attitude to improve, instead of keep doing business their own way and “bribe” local religious leaders to sway the public. The case shows a defensive attitude of Wal-Mart management, which is the real reason why the community of Inglewood wouldn’t cooperate. Defensive individuals were more likely to be rated as less effective in a number of competencies, including self-awareness, communication, ability to adapt, and ability to meet business objectives (Mitchinson and Morris, 2014). As a person whose career have just started, feed backs and criticisms of my actions and decisions will become a ladder that lead me towards success in the future and being defensive like I always have wouldn’t help the struggle to improve from inefficiencies.
Development of an individual does not limit to childhood, just started to learn about learning during master’s degree shouldn’t be considered too late, in fact, my career has just started and learning agility has becoming more critical to me than ever. Answering the questions about the five factors, I realized there’s still more for me to improve, such as my defensive personality and the fear of stepping outside of comfort zone. Besides carrying my negative trait as being ineffective, I should recognize it and try my best to improve. In the future of business, the role of teamwork will be more and more valuable and being an agile learner means not only I have the ability to improve myself, but also I can become a better team player.
- Mitchinson A & Morris R, 2014, Learning about Learning agility, Centre for Creative Leadership White Paper
- Diermeier D, 2011, Walmart – The store wars, Kellog School of Management