Your Future Is In People with a Learning Agile Mindset

Written By: Alexandra Levit
May 28, 2018
5 min read

In today’s business world, companies are challenged to deliver exceptional customer experiences. But, by focusing on your people and employing a learning agile mindset, applied technology skills, and the right technology platform, you can ensure a competitive and marketable future for your organization.

New technologies are released every day, and it’s easy to get lost in the hype. However, we must remember that true success in the twenty-first century business world is mostly about people. Organizations can transform their businesses for the better only if they are willing to empower those closest to the job to solve problems, make decisions, collaborate, and innovate.

Passionate about improving stakeholder experiences, your most valuable human talent comes from a variety of backgrounds and generations. These individuals are intimately versed in your organization’s most pressing problems and know how to use data and processes to solve them. A get-it-done attitude coupled with powerful technology at their disposal put these employees in a position to enact formidable change.

The problem-solvers I described above have two common traits. The first is strong business acumen. They keenly understand their business processes and the data that supports those processes, so they can leverage technology to solve any problems that arise.

The second is a “learning agile” mindset. Learning agility is openness to information and the ability to gain and apply insights based on past and current experiences. Learning agile workers aren’t bothered by and may actually welcome shifts in direction. They are focused on the end state and are willing to relentlessly put themselves out there and shred obstacles to achieve a desired outcome.

Learning agility is good for business. A recent study by Columbia University and Green Peak Partners found that private equity-backed c-suite leaders who ranked high for learning agility on an assessment test also outperformed less-agile peers as measured by revenue growth and “boss ratings” issued by their Boards.

Some employees are naturally more learning agile than others, but there are things leaders can do to increase the prevalence of this trait in their organizations. The simplest is to encourage your team to ask questions and take risks. Don’t dismiss ideas out of hand, even if they sound crazy at the beginning. Reflect on where you’ve succeeded – and failed – in the last – and continuously revisit your learnings. Actively reward experimentation, and don’t blame or criticize your co-workers if a risk goes bad. Learning agility and its cousin innovation cannot flourish in a culture of fear.

Empower Your Talent with the Right Skills and Technology

In days gone by, people outside of IT didn’t need to know anything about software or technology. That is no longer the case. In a recent study I conducted with my nonprofit organization the Career Advisory Board, we found that organizations are expecting employees at all levels and in all functions to have applied technology skills.

Applied technology skills involve a solid understanding of how to integrate people, process, data, and devices to effectively make business decisions, and to leverage technology to solve problems, collaborate, and innovate. They include the ability to:

  • Adapt to different software packages and embrace their use
  • Understand new types of projects and how to utilize the IT resources available to them
  • Connect the various technology systems already in place

When asked to indicate whether they agreed or disagreed with this statement: “when I interview a prospective candidate, the presence of applied technology skills and experience is a competitive differentiator,” nearly 70 percent of our respondents agreed. The desire for leaders to have these skills is even higher (76 percent of the managers who hire senior-level candidates agreed.

Training existing employees in applied technology skills is a tall order, in part because current professionals did not receive this type of instruction via traditional education paths. It’s also not something that can be done overnight. However, by taking steps to develop internal and external courses and trainings, by reimbursing relevant tuition, and by encouraging mentorship, you can grow your organization’s base of applied technology skills.

App development skills are increasing in relevance

The ability to develop apps to solve specific business problems is an applied technology skill of increasing relevance. And, with the right technology platform in place, knowledge workers don’t have to be programmers or coders to take advantage of this skill.

It didn’t used to be this way. Just a decade or so ago, application development required highly specialized programming skills like .NET and Java as well as complete IT control over the development process and tools. But today, organizations are discovering a new breed of high-productivity application platforms that support faster development (in a matter of hours, days or weeks) while offering a better fit with business needs and processes.

These platforms simplify the development process by enabling configuration via menus, graphical editors, and visual models. They facilitate data sharing, automation, and innovation, enabling line-of-business employees to participate directly in digital transformation and drive operational efficiencies as a result.

According to John Rymer, author of the 2017 report, The Forrester New Wave: Low-Code Platforms for Business Developers, these platforms address workflow, information mapping, and mobile app capabilities, but most importantly, they raise the productivity of underserved teams in sales, marketing, field service, supply chain, and retail among others. Business users can develop apps themselves without getting stuck in the IT backlog, and they need not do so in a vacuum.

To integrate a new app-building platform into your development infrastructure, you must know what to look for. To start, the solution you select should be a tool that makes application building easy and accessible by business users doing the work, who are, after all, the true experts on the customer, the problem, the data, and the processes. The platform should make it possible to capture a business process, gather feedback, and make changes to apps on the fly. It enables business developers and their users to track and measure performance, and retrieve reported insights from any location, across any device – with no need to develop separate apps for mobile devices or to manually upgrade the platform (it happens automatically in the cloud).

Would you like to learn more about leveraging new application building platforms to transform your employees’ productivity and workflow, facilitate their goals, and create a bright future for your organization?

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to help people find meaningful jobs - quickly and simply - and to succeed beyond measure once they get there. Follow her @alevit.

Never miss a post — subscribe to the Quickbase Blog.

Sign up to receive the latest posts on everything from Operational Excellence to Digital Transformation.