For the last few months, I’ve been writing a series of Insights about learning agility and the work that my firm, EASI·Consult, has done on the topic with Warner Burke, Ph.D., a professor and researcher at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Burke has created and validated a test that measures learning agility, appropriately called the Burke Learning Agility Inventory (Burke LAI). Learning agility is seen as being closely related to leadership potential. There are nine dimensions to the Burke LAI:
- Performance Risk Taking
- Interpersonal Risk Taking
- Information Gathering
- Feedback Seeking.
As I promised when I began this series of articles, I’m going to take a closer examination this month at one specific dimension – Information Gathering – and what it looks like in situations at work and outside of work.
Burke defines Information Gathering as using various methods to remain current in one’s area of expertise
Here’s an example of Information Gathering from David McCullough’s book, The Wright Brothers, page 36. At this point in the story, Wilbur is getting more and more interested in air travel and is trying to learn as much as he can from the information available on the topic.
“In his letter to the Smithsonian, Wilbur made mention of his interest in birds. To achieve human flight, he had written, was ‘only a question of knowledge and skill in all acrobatic feats,’ and birds were ‘the most perfectly trained gymnasts in the world … specially well fitted for their work.’
“Among the material the Smithsonian provided him was an English translation of a book titled L’Empire de l’Air, published in Paris in 1881. It had been written by a French farmer, poet, and student of flight, Louis Pierre Mouillard. Nothing Wilbur had yet read so affected him. He would long consider it ‘one of the most remarkable pieces of aeronautical literature’ ever published. For Wilbur, flight had become a ‘cause,’ and Mouillard, one of the great ‘missionaries’ of the cause, like a prophet crying in the wilderness, exhorting the world to repent of its unbelief in the possibility of human flight.
“At the start of his Empire of the Air, Mouillard gave fair warning that one could be entirely overtaken by the thought that the problem of flight could be solved by man. ‘When once this idea has invaded the brain, it possesses it exclusively.’”
Now let’s return to learning agility and the dimension of Information Gathering. I’m going to take you through a fictitious example involving Russ, the office manager of a remote office in Idaho for a specialty products company.
The Boise, Idaho, office that Russ oversees is part of a $200 million specialty products company. Russ was initially hired as an administrative assistant and quickly was promoted to office manager. There are many “collateral” duties that get assigned to him since there is no one else to assign them to. Russ handles safety, human resources and IT. He has not been trained in these areas. He is not always on the distribution list for policy changes and has difficulty attending corporate update meetings, if he is even invited. His office got “dinged” because they missed an OSHA submission date.
In our second example, Russ does get invited to an administrative update meeting, where he is introduced to the Burke LAI. Russ learns he needs to strengthen his Information Gathering capabilities.
At the meeting, one of the “team building” activities that Russ participates in is to get feedback on the Burke LAI. His lowest score is on Information Gathering. Russ thinks his score is dead on.
He goes back to Boise and meets with his boss. As part of an update on what happened at the meeting, Russ talks about his Burke LAI results. His boss senses his frustration. He doesn’t want to let the office down by missing deadlines. The boss asks Russ to develop a resource planning document. For his biggest collateral duty, HR, he is given approval to attend local Society for Human Resource Management meetings. Russ and his boss agree to meet once a quarter to talk specifically about whether he is feeling current in his collateral duties, and what connections or resources he has identified since his last meeting that he needs.
This is an example of Information Gathering in action.
EASI•Consult® works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. EASI•Consult’s specialties include leadership assessment, online pre-employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about EASI•Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email [email protected] or call (800) 922-EASI.