Center to Advance Education for Adults

CAEA ~ DePaul University, School of Continuing and Professional Studies

On Thursday, September 19, 2013 a group of learning professionals, facilitated by Pamela Meyer, gathered to explore and discover some of the dimensions and dynamics of learning agility and generate ideas for how we can enhance this capacity in our own practice settings.

Learning agility, or the ability to learn and adapt in changing contexts (Mitchinson & Morris, 2012), is increasingly central to success in the workplace and life. Learning agility is also a component of organizational agility, which is proving to return significant bottom line benefits for those who make it a strategic priority (Glenn, 2009).

Jill Archer, generously mapped our conversation. Her map is pasted here and attached below for you to download, as well as the map of themes we surfaced from our reflections on our own experiences of learning agility during pair interviews.

This forum was created to continue the conversation on Learning Agility, share your additional insights, questions and resources. Please continue the conversation by replying to this opening post.

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Up early today after having attended this lab last night.  Thanks Pamela for inviting us into the space to explore our own experiences and to connect it with our practice!  I enjoyed the group learning and very much appreciated the opportunity for sense-making in a supportive and creative environment.

I reviewed this short paper from CCL this AM and am reflecting on how the strategies I have used in the past (re-framing, listening, "widening the lens") stack up with the research, and am eager to further explore the concept of derailment.

I am curious to hear how fellow participants may take this into their work as teachers/facilitators/trainers---I don't have an immediate answer right now, but I am eager to be in a conversation!


Mary et al,

I agree it was a great night, I so enjoyed Jill's mapping, it really helped me to see what we were all saying.

I agree, Pamela poked my brain too and I am already looking for ways to bring more improvisation to my work....I also tend to wait till 'I know' and have under valued trusting what I need will be there when I need it.

I am a tree....


I am struck by our conversation about the how risky the liminal space can feel and how several of us experienced negotiating between the poles of "performance and play." I am wondering if agility, and especially learning agility, is linked to the degree to which we are attempting to manage our performance and/or other people's impressions and expectations?

Learning agility, by definition, is taking place in unfamiliar and/or changing contexts. This makes managing "performance" extra stressful. 

This adds to the value of our role as practitioners in creating spaces (and helping learners co-create spaces) that are safe enough to play, experiment and shift from "self-consciousness to self-and-other-awareness."

Just playing here:  I wonder what would have happened if, before giving everyone a chance to decide on when to go up there, you or someone else would have chosen each person to go to the front of the room, so there would be no time to decide/prepare.  I am wondering if that would have helped lower the risk factor and helped on the second time around because we all would have HAD to come up with an idea with no time to prepare (making the second time around a little easier).  I found myself wanting to jump in, but hesitated because I did not have an idea, but then when I did have an idea, I didn't want it, so I hesitated again.  LOL

I agree with you in that I believe we are always (unconsciously) attempting to manage our performance and/or other people's impressions and expectations. 

I really enjoyed the learning lab experiment!  Thank you so much!


What an interesting idea, Christine. I'll have to experiment with that next time! 

To Pamela's point, I thought I largely heard in our group the other night that folks felt there was this cerebral consideration of how risky we can be. What is this about? Are we playing it safe, thus reducing the risk factor? Are we structuring our thoughts in such a way that we are renegotiating risks by re-situating our relationship with the risk at hand? There was even an analogy of climbing a mountain and still needing to be tethered to some safety mechanism in order to take such a risk. I wonder, how transformative is our learning where there are calculated risks versus those where there is less planning and more doing? Do we run the chance of reinforcing self-doubt or accepting what is possible (or impossible)? The way in which many have been professionally and personally socialized lends itself to thinking that we can think our way into a new way of acting. Is there something to be said for acting our way into a new way of thinking?

Just some curious thoughts that were swirling around after our session...

Peace and much gratitude,


Shanika, I have to agree with you here.  I am wondering the same thing: how transformative our learning is with calculated risks v less planning and more doing?  We were just talking about that in our culture class tonight.  Our discussion revolved around competencies v grades.  I think it all starts when we start attending school in kindergarten.  We are conditioned to "do good".  Everything rests on our grades from then on. 

A lot of 'self help' books out there say fake it til you make it, right?




Creating an environment that supports safety for the purpose of honest reflection and dialogue is of paramount importance to me when I facilitate groups. The world outside of a facilitated group does not foster or guarantee such environments. It has been my experience that participants often enter these situations with a degree ofI wariness, or even suspicion, based on their experiences in the real world. Professionally,I realize that what I'm asking participants to do is to "drop their guard" "open up" and "take a risk" - actions which may be counterintuitive to them due to past experiences. This is indeed a reality for me - from my own experience.

Trust for me is not a switch, but a gauge. I'm open to taking a closer look at the pros and cons this metaphor both illuminates and uncovers.




I am glad to be reminded of my comment regarding "hooking in" and how that may be a useful analogy for negotiating risk in the swirl of VUCA.  Risk-taking is the new normal---leaders must be agile and nimble and risk-adverse, however, they must also have created, to the best of their ability, a back-up plan to ensure organizational viability and sustainability.  To train and teach to developing competence in risk-taking alone is not enough---it needs to be developed alongside competencies in performance  and tolerance to failure.  Perhaps a more helpful analogy to consider is that of a ship captain.  To set out to sail without a dinghy and a life-preserver for the crew and passengers would be considered just plain stupid.  However, if all systems go and the ship goes down, these "safety nets" are the tools that ensure that ultimate failure---death---is avoided.

I loved the mind map!!!


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