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Adapting to Change: The Four Attributes of Successful Learners



In today's business environment, the ability to adapt and learn new skills is crucial for executives who want to stay ahead of the curve. With the constant shifts in how businesses operate and how work must get done, it's no longer enough to rely on traditional methods and approaches. To succeed, executives must be willing to experiment, take risks, and become novices over and over again. But this can be a challenging proposition, especially for those who are used to relying on their innate biases and established ways of doing things.


Today we will explore the four key attributes that successful learners possess, and how they can be developed through simple mental strategies. By cultivating these attributes, executives can better navigate the ever-changing landscape of modern business and stay ahead of the competition.


Aspiration: The Desire to Learn and Master New Skills


The first attribute of successful learners is aspiration, or the desire to understand and master new skills. This involves having a growth mindset, being open to new experiences, and setting clear goals for personal and professional development. Aspiration is what drives individuals to push beyond their comfort zones and embrace new challenges.


One way to develop aspiration is to set "stretch goals" that are slightly beyond your current capabilities. By setting goals that are challenging but achievable, you'll be motivated to learn and grow, without feeling overwhelmed or discouraged. Additionally, seeking out mentors or coaches who can provide guidance and support can help you stay on track and overcome obstacles.


Self-Awareness: Seeing Yourself Clearly


The second attribute of successful learners is self-awareness, or the ability to see oneself clearly. This involves being honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, and understanding how your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors impact your learning and performance. Self-awareness allows individuals to identify areas for improvement and develop strategies for addressing them.


One way to develop self-awareness is to regularly reflect on your experiences and feedback from others. This can involve journaling, meditation, or seeking feedback from colleagues and mentors. By taking the time to reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and actions, you'll gain a better understanding of yourself and your learning processes, and be able to make adjustments as needed.


Curiosity: Thinking of and Asking Good Questions


The third attribute of successful learners is curiosity, or the desire to learn and understand new things. This involves asking questions, seeking out new experiences, and being open to alternative perspectives. Curiosity is what drives individuals to explore new ideas and approaches, and to challenge their existing beliefs and assumptions.


One way to develop curiosity is to ask "why" and "what if" questions. By asking questions that challenge your assumptions and explore different possibilities, you'll gain a deeper understanding of the world around you and identify new opportunities for growth and learning. Additionally, seeking out diverse perspectives and experiences can help you broaden your horizons and develop a more nuanced understanding of the world.


Vulnerability: Tolerating Mistakes and Learning from Failure


The fourth and final attribute of successful learners is vulnerability, or the willingness to take risks and tolerate mistakes. This involves being open to new experiences and perspectives, even if they challenge your existing beliefs and approaches. Vulnerability allows individuals to learn from their mistakes and use them as opportunities for growth and development.


One way to develop vulnerability is to embrace a "growth mindset" and view mistakes as opportunities for learning. By reframing failures as opportunities for growth, you'll be more likely to take risks and experiment with new approaches. Additionally, seeking out feedback and constructive criticism can help you identify areas for improvement and develop strategies for addressing them.


Conclusion


In today's rapidly changing business environment, the ability to adapt and learn new skills is crucial for executives who want to stay ahead of the curve. By cultivating the four attributes of successful learners – aspiration, self-awareness, curiosity, and vulnerability – executives can better navigate the ever-changing landscape of modern business and stay ahead of the competition. While these attributes may seem daunting, they can be developed through simple mental strategies and practices.

 

Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



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