Are you a nimble learner?

Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Apparently so, say researchers in the field of neuroplasticity. Indeed, what we once thought was confined to childhood development—learning and growing—we now know occurs throughout our lives.

The brain is, in fact, plastic. It will reshape itself with our efforts and experiences, regardless of age. In fact, that is exactly what it’s doing today. Practices are sprinting to keep up with the changing business climate. As they do, they create new processes, then refine and replicate those processes.

That is nimble learning in action.

What is nimble learning?

Nimble learning is just what it sounds like—learning that occurs when you need it, just in time. You face a challenge that calls for doing a task a different way, so you try a few different ways until you land on the perfect solution.

Nimble learners learn quickly. When faced with a new situation, such as the need to pivot to contactless client service, they experiment until they find the solution. Failure is part of the process and enables them to extract lessons learned. They then apply those lessons to the situation at hand to help them reach the ideal solution.

Nimble learners aren’t afraid to take on unfamiliar tasks or take risks. There is one caveat, however. Practices have to create cultures in which risk-taking is not only encouraged, it is demanded. And trying and failing is expected—it’s part of the long game.

For most of us, nimble learning isn’t always easy or comfortable. Change never is. But luckily, there are ways to build this muscle.

How to be a nimble learner

If you struggle with nimble learning, these tips may help.

Define the problem upfront

Too often, people jump straight to problem-solving. Don’t! Instead, take the time to identify the challenge. Ask questions such as, “What is the ideal outcome we want?” and “What is the broader challenge here?” You might be surprised by what surfaces.

Learn from the past

Take time to reflect on what you’ve tried in the past that didn’t work. Why didn’t it work? What did you learn that you didn’t know before? What surprised you? How can you apply those lessons learned to the current situation?

Embrace ambiguity

Most people are uncomfortable with ambiguity. It’s, well, disorienting. But perhaps you need only change your mindset. Get curious about the challenge. Find what’s interesting about it. Imagine what success will look and feel like once you’ve overcome the challenge.

Rewire your brain

Our brains are conditioned to default to the way we’ve always done things. But change of any kind will override this natural tendency. To do that, try new things, meet new people, and have new experiences.

Take more risks

If you’re afraid of failure, take more risks. It sounds counterintuitive but it will help you overcome your fear of failing. Start with small risks and build to larger ones. Experiment often and quickly. When you fail, congratulate yourself. You’re one failure closer to success.

Photo credit: © urbancow /E+ via Getty Images

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