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Published by:
Harvard Business Publishing (1997)
in "Harvard Management Update"
3 pages


In part, because as many as 75% of all reengineering efforts fail, organizations must focus on learning to sustain their competitive advantage--no small task given the tenacity with which bright people struggle to remain within their comfort zones, even if this leads to skilled incompetence. "Individual learning agility" may be just the lever organizations need to facilitate meaningful change. There are three levels of learning ability. Agile or active learners, about 10% of the organizational population, are unusually effective in new or challenging situations and have an outsized impact when placed in the right job. The majority of people in an organization are random or passive learners (60%). Members of this population learn as a matter of happenstance rather than habit, nature, or desire but still may be the linchpin for their entire team--at least until the team has to deal with change. Blocked learners, the remaining people in the organization, are the most resistant to or discombobulated by change but have their place in organizational life, especially in roles where creativity is not required. The author advises passive learners to become more like agile learners and offers suggestions for how to put oneself on the line in new situations that force development and application of new insights.


Learning; Learning curves; Management development; Organizational change; Organizational development; Reengineering

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