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4 Proven Strategies to Improve your Learning Agility

Wendy Tan

Author, Keynote Speaker & Managing Partner of Flame Centre | Human Skills Institute

Updated 22 May 2024


How to cultivate your learning agility?

So you want to learn a skill? What do you do?

Make a resolution to learn it? Great, then what?

Google about it or read an article? That’s better than just making a resolution, you get some ideas on the topic, but then what?

Sign up for a course? Excellent! Kudos to you for your commitment. You will have foundational knowledge or an overview on the topic, some tools and practice to feel confident. But then what?

Are you seeing the issue?

The biggest problems in learning are:

  1. We have no time! We are busy with work and personal lives.

  2. We lose focus. Social media, news, work demands or just life in general pull us away.

  3. We don’t apply our learning enough for learning to stick.

So before we know it, the resolution to learn fizzles off. The learning from the articles or YouTube videos or the program evaporates. In the end, the time and resources invested in learning is wasted. Six months later we find ourselves in the same spot as before.

4 Proven Learning Strategies

So here are 4 proven learning strategies gleaned from my research interviewing agile learners who become successful leaders, app developers, data scientists, researchers and more. Some of them also crossed boundaries to reskill successfully in a different domain area.

1. Leverage your motivation at its highest

When we are triggered to learn a skill, our motivation at that point is highest. Use it well to set up the guardrails for your learning, so you can't easily fall off or slip away in your learning when the motivation wanes.

One of this guardrails is journalling your resolve - why this learning matters to you and how you had planned to learn. The passage of time erodes our memory, so the record of your clarity helps to keep you on track.

2. Create a playground to use what you’re learning

This is the second guardrail. Create a context for you to apply your learning quickly and easily. For example, make it part of your work to use this skill. If it’s not currently part of your work scope, speak to your manager about it, e.g., find a project or join a task force. Take up voluntary work or sign up for a challenge.

For example, a dancer learning saxophone took the leap to sign up for a music performance 6 months later. You can imagine, he really practised and couldn't just slip off! By creating a playground to use the skill, you will have to necessarily learn to succeed!

3. Join a community, so your learning is continuous over time

The third guardrail is to join a community. Reading articles or attending programs tend to be once-off. Yet learning happens in layers over time. To persist in learning a new skill, join a community that has regular ongoing meetings.

For example, join a community that has webinars or meetings once a month. You pick up different aspects of the topic or skill in these bite-size sessions. A community also gives you access to other like-minded people, so you can understand how they think and operate. You can also get to know experts and role models to consult with.

4. Set up feedback structures

By knowing how we are doing as we practise new skills, we are encouraged when we do well or we get early data points to make tweaks. Without knowing how we are doing, the focus on learning wanes.

Tell your manager or colleague or family member about the skill you are learning. Ask them to observe you and tell you directly what is working and what to tweak. Quick and timely feedback gives us the datapoints to learn quickly.

When learning motivation is highest, create guardrails to keep your learning wheel spinning towards mastery. After you have created your playground, joined a community and set up feedback structures, attending courses or accessing resources on Google can fit nicely into your overall learning strategy. You will be amazed how you become a different person in 6 months' time!

Skill Mastery in Four Steps by Dr Wendy Tan.

Read the full article.


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