The world is entering an era of disruptive change, which is causing increased complexity. Rapidly changing technologies coupled with data explosion and the generally heightened pace of change will cause disruption on every level of society and in every industry. The interplay between fields like artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality, the internet of things, 3D printing, neuroscience, mobile networks, and computing will create realities that were previously unthinkable. Radical system-wide innovations can happen in short periods of time. Machines can learn, which puts artificial intelligence in direct competition with people, especially those who are doing routine and repetitive jobs. It will cause widespread disruption to business models and labour markets over coming years.
To stay competitive in today’s business world requires a fierce desire to learn, to improve, and to adapt. Former executive of Shell Oil Company, Arie de Geus said: “a company’s ability to learn faster than its competitors, may be its only sustainable competitive advantage in the future”. The collective mental flexibility of an organization’s employees to continuously adapt and adjust to new systems, strategies, structures and technology, fast and easy, certainly is their greatest competitive advantage. Learning therefore, is not only the DNA of the mind but also the DNA of any progressive and competitive organization. A learning organization is one that nurtures and improves a culture of learning and innovation, one in which employees continuously seek, share, and apply new knowledge and skills to improve individual and organizational performance and drive business results.
Because of the continuous changes occurring in today’s organizations and markets, adaptability, agility, and flexibility have become increasingly important to safeguarding organizations’ and people’s future progress and improving their performance. Organizations are only as agile as the employees who work there, the people who make the company what it is. The term ‘‘agility’’ refers to ‘‘the power of moving quickly and easily’’ and ‘‘the ability to think and draw conclusions quickly’’. People’s agility to adapt, adjust, learn new information quickly, unlearn old behaviour fast, be flexible in moving across ideas and understandings in such a way that they are able to maximize the potential learning value of a given experience, will be crucial to their survival, progress and competitiveness.
As organizations become more complex and dynamic, peoples’ ability to learn from experience becomes more important. It is referred to as learning agility and the concept has attracted considerable attention from human resource professionals and consultants interested in developing employees’ ability to learn.
Before people can be learning agile, they need to optimize the drivers that influence their brain performance and over all “brain fitness”. People also need to integrate all the neurophysiological components that impact their learning agility and learning ability. This competence is referred to as neuro-agility. Developing neuro-agility is a prerequisite for the brain to function at optimum level as one integrated whole brain system without any neurological hindrances.
Neuro-agility is a construct whose time has come. This unique neuroscience innovation offers the solution to developing the learning skills people need for safeguarding themselves against future job losses to AI, as it focuses on the neurological components of learning, thinking and cognitive processes – components that make people human and determine their competitive advantage. It provides fresh insights into how uniquely people learn and why some learn faster, easier and are more flexible than others – shedding light on issues such as learning problems, risk for error and brain fitness that has not sufficiently been addressed before. This multi-dimensional, neuroscience approach, compliments and strengthens constructs like “ability to learn” and “learning agility”, but is neither exhaustive nor exclusive to any of these concepts.
Neuro-agility is a multi-dimensional framework. The first dimension consist of drivers that optimize the brain’s performance and the second dimension consist of neurophysiological attributes that influence a person’s neurological design. The interplay between people’s neurological design (referred to as neuro-design) and the drivers that optimize their brain performance, significantly influences the ease, speed, and flexibility with which people learn, think and process information, their propensity for error and learning ability.
Using the neuro-agility framework that assesses individual and organizational neuro-agility fills a gap in our understanding of why some people learn faster and are more flexible in learning both within and across situations than others. The neuro-agility framework offers innovative solutions to identify people’s unique learning potential, increase their learning ability and optimize their learning agility. It provides a fresh, neuroscience approach on how to develop talent, improve performance and reduce risk for human error. It also contributes to increasing company’s return on their investments significantly as the concept of neuro-agility is grounded in neuroscience, helping them to separate facts from fiction. The neuro-agility assessment and skill-set integrates easily with global talent selection, talent development, performance improvement and learning practices. Developing neuro-agility as a fundamental skill set for all people in an organization who wants to build a culture of learning and future proof their businesses against disruptive change is not negotiable, but mandatory.
Suggestions to implement a neuroscience approach to building a culture of learning:
- Get commitment and support from executive leadership to make learning part of the organization’s strategic objectives.
- Create organizational awareness about the value of neuro-agility as the cornerstone for developing a culture of learning.
- Create personalized development plans (pdp’s) for every employee:
- One cannot improve what one cannot measure. Conduct Neuro Agility Profile™ (NAP™) assessments to measure the drivers that optimize brain performance and the neuro-design components that impact the ease, speed and flexibility with which people learn, think and process information.
- Create pdp’s based on employee’s unique neuro-design and potential
- Keep employees accountable for the learning specified in their pdp’s.
- Provide employees with appropriate learning solutions to optimize the drivers that impact their brain performance and integrate the neurophysiological components of learning.
- Unlearn old habits and learning practices which are no longer relevant.
- Develop the top 10 most desired skills for the workplace of the future.
- Monitor, reinforce, reward and recognize employee learning.
- Developing neuro-agility, learning agility and learning ability competencies, should be an organization wide initiative as it is relevant and applicable to all employees. Assimilate information from NAP™ assessments and create an overview of the organization’s neuro-agility and learning agility.
- Set neuro-agility development goals and targets
- Create a neuro-agility implementation strategy that integrates with talent selection, talent management, wellness, reducing risk for human error, learning and development, leadership development and culture of learning development initiatives.
- Measure progress and results.
- Adjust, re-align and continuously develop.
By: Dr André Vermeulen