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Like an App: Agile Learning & Personal Development

September 10, 2020

Edited by Anuj Vyas.

Considering everything that has taken place in the last half a year, if your own personal development is not near the top of your priorities, then it should be. The skill-set you had 12 months ago is not the same you would need to survive in business today. The need for continuous development has never been higher and adapting to changes as they come is the call to action in these uncertain times.


This blog piece is based on excerpts from Craig Austin’s keynote in Learn Tomorrow’s webinar on Agile Learning in Corporate Practice, held on the 1st of September, 2020. Find out more about our upcoming Webinars.


There was a time not too long ago, when there was clear distinction between personal development and career development paths. Work training has shifted from being the corporate’s responsibility to carry their workforce with them according to the changing landscape. With the technology, equipment and internet bandwidths in existence today, the way people work has evolved, with more flexibility in working environments, but also more responsibility and accountability. The onus has fallen on the workforce to ensure that they become pro-active in keeping pace with the needs of their business, and thus, career development has merged into personal development. And then COVID happened.

A great way to look at personal development is to look at the development lifecycle of phone apps. We have an app for most functions these days, but typically use the ones that are most relevant for our everyday needs (WhatsApp / Snapchat / YouTube / Facebook etc.) as they're current, simple to use, relevant and regularly updated. Apps survive or die on the basis of how good they are at evolving according to the marketplace. How many of us have downloaded apps that looked great at the outset, used them a few times and then never used them again?

What works for a successful app, works in personal development, and expanding further, relates to what we are getting at: Agile Learning. The core principles that help apps stay successful and relevant are grounded in the agile philosophy.

Key Points in the Agile Manifesto

Individuals and interactions over processes & tools

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Responding to change over following a plan

To expand a bit on these key-points in practice:

  • Diverse & Quick: From the outset, the team must be diverse, plan long-term, but work in short bursts, or sprints.
  • The need to be Aligned: The team must be onboard with the idea of transforming into an agile team and undertaking a journey towards change.
  • Listen & Incorporate: They must be heard if they have opinions, ideas or issues, without the fear of repercussions. At the same time, there must be a sense of individual accountability.
  • Change it NOW!: There must be a constant analysis and action on data procured from the learners. Historically, this data has been used at a later point in time, to create a learning of the whole period and adopt in the next cycle, after sufficient analysis. In an agile approach, this data needs to be acted on on a daily basis.
  • Always on the Money: There must be a robust development plan in place... a plan which is aligned to business goals, but with changing strategic objectives… easy to mould according to the need of the hour and the data gathered. Gone are the days when one used to set their targets at the beginning of the year, and then try to follow the waypoints, hoping to land at the right place. Constant course-correction is the modern way to do it. Changing and adapting quickly is the key here.
  • Love to Learn: Make learning continuous and non-linear to keep it interesting for the learner.

Design Thinking & Agile Learning

Design thinking has a lot in common with the agile approach; focus not only on how a product is created and marketed for a population, but go underneath… taking time to understand people doing real jobs, encountering real issues that they face and finding a way around, and the potential shortcuts that they take to get the job done. This is real value of an agile approach... to build a value proposition that caters to the maximum, and swiftly.

Agility is for Everybody

The beauty of an Agile approach is that it is meant to be adaptable, it is different according to every individuals’ understanding of it. By definition of the word, it is meant to be flexible. When undertaking a transformation towards Agility, many individuals will have their reservations. All one needs to do is to fit Agile into their current methods and worldview, and voila!, it works.

The current COVID pandemic has been trying and challenging for a majority of the world, and tragic for many. It has had a few positive results though, with necessitating a need to adapt to existing technologies and new operating cultures being somewhere close to the top.

Agile Learning in the corporate space is without a doubt the way forward.

Visit Learn Tomorrow's Events page to register for our upcoming webinars.


Craig has over 30 years worth of business and HR experience in the Financial Services sector across the UK and the Middle East region. He is currently the Head of Talent and Learning for one of the local banks based in the UAE. He was the co-lead for the highly successful Government Accelerator initiative in the office of the Prime Minister, delivering the challenging Emiratization initiative. Craig and his team are also the proud winners of the inaugural CIPD HR team of the year award 2019.

He is an industry recognized Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the Australian HR Institute (AHRI) the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and the Learning & Performance Institute (LPI) and also sits as a Fellow of the Gulf Talent Advisory board.

Anuj Vyas is a member of Learn TomorrowcBook.AI aims to create a new learning experience providing a personal Learning Feed, which smartly selects learning content on the basis of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Artificial Intelligence.

Photo by Sonnie Hiles on Unsplash


Learn Tomorrow is an eLearning technology provider. cBook is an integrated Learning Experience Platform (LXP) aiming to create digital learning experiences with impact. Tailored to the needs of businesses, academies & trainers.

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