About foxes, hedgehogs, learnatics and scaling soft skills

2 october 2018

In the first article, we share with you 4 ways to become a better learner. The second article can help you identify  the areas in which development efforts will yield the best return on your investment. In the third article you learn how to scale soft skills.

4 Ways to Become a Better Learner

This first article (written by Monique Valcour)  we want to share with you, is somewhat dated (2015) but still so very relevant: In order to sustain success, you must develop learning agility.

“Staying within your comfort zone is a good way to prepare for today,
but it’s a terrible way to prepare for tomorrow.” (David Peterson)

So, what is Learning Agility?

Learning agility is the capacity for rapid, continuous learning from experience. Agile learners are good at making connections across experiences and they’re able to let go of perspectives or approaches that are no longer useful. People with this mindset tend to be oriented toward learning goals and open to new experiences. 

A desire to develop by acquiring new skills and mastering new situations is a fundamental element of learning agility. Agile learners value and derive satisfaction from the process of learning itself, which boosts their motivation as well as their capacity to learn from challenging developmental experiences. As a result, they don’t get defensive and they’re willing to take risks, such as making a mistake or appearing non-expert in public. 

How Do You Develop Learning Agility?

Since developing learning agility involves learning to recognize and change automatic routines, the aid of a coach can be invaluable. But even if you’re not working with a coach, there are steps you can take on your own to enhance your learning agility:

  • Ask for feedback
  • Experiment with new approaches or behaviors.
  • Look for connections across seemingly unrelated areas
  • Make time for reflection.

Read the entire article

How to Decide What Skill to Work On Next

The authors of this article found that people who improve in ways that best support their success seem to look for the overlap between what their organization needs and what will give them the most satisfaction. They’ve discovered that using a version of Jim Collins’s “hedgehog” idea, from Good to Great, helps them think it through. Great organizations focus on three things, they say: (1) what will drive their economic engine, (2) what they can be best in the world at, (3) and what they are most passionate about. 

The hedgehog that is mentioned by Collins in this article comes from the essay ‘The Hedgehog and the Fox’ written by philosopher Isaiah Berlin. Berlin expands upon this idea to divide thinkers into two categories: hedgehogs, who view the world through the lens of a single defining idea, and foxes, who draw on a wide variety of experiences and for whom the world cannot be boiled down to a single idea. The strength of the hedgehog is in his focus and central vision.  The power of the fox is in his flexibility and openness to experience. The hedgehog never wavers, never doubts.  The fox is more cautious, more pragmatic, and more inclined to see complexity and nuance..

According to Collins all good-to-great leaders are hedgehogs because they know how to simplify a complex world into a single, organizing idea.  Collins tends to see foxes as flighty, distracted and inconsistent. You can watch his short talk on this subject via this link

In our opinion, Jim Collins is probably right in suggesting that anyone who can ignore the distractions around them and focus on the task at hand has an advantage. At least for a while. Okay, you’ll win the rat race, but in the end you’re still a rat ;-) In the 21st century we need a bigger sense of the world we live in - at least in my opinion - and we all need to be more open-minded and comfortable with ambiguity.  We shouldn’t be so easily impressed with those who say they have all the answers for us. 

“Let go of certainty. The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness, curiosity and a willingness to embrace paradox, rather than choose up sides. The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves exactly as we are, but never stop trying to learn and grow.”
Tony Schwartz

Read the entire article

The challenge of scaling soft skills

As a large proportion of the working tasks will be either completely replaced by machines or augmented by a human-machine interface in a very near future, it is paramount that human “soft skills” such as empathy, context sensing, collaboration, and creative thinking will become increasingly valuable. That means that millions of people across the world will have to make the transition toward becoming a great deal better versed in these soft skills.
In this third article we want to share with you professor Lynda Gratton argues that this transition will be far from easy and that it is crucial for our schools, our homes, and our workplaces to understand the obstacles to developing soft skills and then addressing them.

She sees three Barriers to Developing Soft Skills: at school, at home and in the workplace.

  1. Schools are too much like factories
  2. Our homes are saturated with technology affecting the development of human soft skills
  3. Stressful work reduces empathy: most people learn a lot while being at work, but when under pressure or when they’re being treated unfairly or when under stress, the hippocampus (the part of our brain’s limbic system that is associated with emotion) is less able to engage in empathic listening. The brain closes down to learning or performing soft skills.

The introduction of new technologies throws many people’s lives into confusion as they struggle to reskill. This is what we’re experiencing right now but this is also what happened in previous industrial revolutions. And every time this shift brought about a temporary feeling of unhappiness and a reduction in productivity before people are upskilled again and before society is redesigned.

It is clear that there is no easy answer to this challenge.
But the need is great, and the speed of implementation is crucial. 

There are some great initiatives already, but to really make a difference these initiatives will have to be adapted more broadly. If we want to avoid the same kind of turmoil today that was seen during the first  Industrial Revolution, we need to act now, Gratton states and this could be a way forward according to her:

  1. Schools have to focus on empathy and collaboration
  2. Businesses have to focus more on technological innovation to help employees develop soft skills. 
  3. And, at work, technological innovations can help reduce stress: wearables capable of tracking heart rate, skin temperature, and brain waves can pinpoint sources of stress more accurately and therefore help people monitor the “rested brain” that is most capable of being empathic. 

And the good news is that some of these solutions are truly scalable. But we must seize these ideas and invent others. You can read the entire article via this link and learn more about the way forward

That’s it for this week!
Hope you enjoyed it...

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