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Agile Learning: The Trinity of Culture, Competencies & Approach

November 17, 2020

Edited by Michael Leitner.

You know the story: Technology has disrupted a wide range of business aspects over the last couple of decades. Technological development is ever-accelerating since the early 2000s, and for businesses it is a challenge to keep up with all the changes around them, which leads to the oft-heard motto - Adapt, learn, adapt and repeat. The question is: how can companies do it efficiently?


This blog piece is based on excerpts from Nele Graf and Frank Edelkraut’s keynotes in Learn Tomorrow’s webinar titled Agile Learning: The Trinity of Culture, Competencies & Processes, held on the 10th of November, 2020.


Agile philosophies reveal an approach for companies for coping with these exponential technology leaps. Without a doubt, L&D and Human Resources need to play a key role in this as well; to support their organisations with coming to terms with the ever-emerging technological opportunities and challenges that they face continuously.

Agility in Learning and Development is akin to a grass-roots approach that aims to trigger learning from within the company, rather than being a top-down affair. In various departments, because of the fast-changing technological landscape, it is no longer possible for companies to tell their employees what they need to know or how to improve in doing their job, simply because they might not know themselves.

Instead, Agile Learning enables employees to ensure their employability through constant self-learning and competence changes. The need to change is THE over-arching trigger for learning to take place (on an organisational and at individual level).

Here are the key take-away messages from our panelists:

  • Combine learning with work: Often the drivers of change come from actual work processes and a recognition of factors that can improve work conditions/efficiency, and learning based off of this work context is crucial. The fusion of learning with work processes is therefore essential to address the need to learn and to react to change.
  • Provide formats for collaboration and social learning: Agile learning places a lot of focus on learning from one another, disrupting a traditional Teacher-Learner relationship. Towards this end, agile learning makes use of innovative new formats such as BarCamps or Lunch-and-Learn meet-ups, which allow learners to exchange know-how in informal learning settings, and lets them choose their own topics to learn and develop from.
  • Promote a culture of learning: Agile learning promotes flexibility and an understanding of individual learning paths, moving away from pre-defined formats and a pre-set knowledge base for learners. Creating a culture of learning that enables and empowers individual to guide their own learning, while facilitating a want to learn, is a pre-requisite to the agile learning philosophy.
  • Learners’ competencies to learn: One major aspect of agile learning is that learners are given the controls to their own learning and development processes. To fully reap the benefits of agile learning, there needs to be a greater exercising of self-responsibility from the learners’ side, as much as the trust placed in them from the HR departments. Self-control and a measure of discipline is needed and assumed from the side of the learners, to be able to guide their own development progress. Of course, the learners should also be motivating themselves to self-learn, and recognise their own weaknesses and strengths.

The agile learning approach’s central claims advocate the individualisation of learning offerings to meet real learning demand. This should be considered to be more important than processes, tools, certificates and tests. In addition, the embracing of change, rather than sticking to pre-defined plans, should be centrestage.

Clearly, agile learning is not applicable to every aspect of Learning and Development. Some topics necessitate a top-down organisational approach, e.g. compliance topics. The right balance between dynamic and more rigid approaches must be struck within each company’s unique context. However, where it can be applied, agile learning will always help the individual discover and exploit their potential, to thrive, thus benefitting the organisation as a whole.


Nele Graf and Frank Edelkraut are Managing Directors at Mentus GmbH, and authors of the book Agile Learning, published at HAUFE.

Mentus offers - amongst a broad range of services - training and consulting services in agile transformation and learning. They are well-known for the Agile Learning Coach- qualifications.

Michael Leitner is part of Learn Tomorrow. With cBook.AI, Learn Tomorrow aims to create eLearning tools that support Agile Learning approaches, and support them with Artificial Intelligence.

Photo by Drew Graham 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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