Lifelong learning challenges: How to boost your learning quotient

Written by
Clare Grist Taylor

21 Nov 2019

21 Nov 2019 • by Clare Grist Taylor

To meet the challenges of the future, learning will be lifelong and a person’s ‘learning quotient’ key to their employability. 

Not content with IQ or even EQ, we’re now in an era of CQ (curiosity or creativity quotient), SQ (spirituality quotient) and, perhaps more importantly, LQ: learning or learnability quotient.

This move towards multiple intelligences reflects the fact that we’re operating in a complex and fast-moving world. IQ and EQ still provide the critical underpinning of rational intelligence and emotional awareness, but more might be needed to meet the challenges of the future. Developing learnability quotient (LQ) could help bridge that gap. 

According to LQ experts, ManpowerGroup, learnability is the “desire and ability to grow and adapt to new circumstances and challenges throughout one’s work life”. It’s not about what people already know, but about how quickly they can learn – and how readily they seek out opportunities for development. 

Accessing LQ

Back in 2005, John Taylor and Adrian Furnham examined, in their book Learning at Work, whether it’s possible to assess an individual’s ability to learn, creating an early model around the factors which influence LQ. They identified three groups of learnability factors, comprising seven sub-categories: 



(social background; education; age)


(cognitive ability; personality)


(self-esteem; motivation)


By constructing questions around these factors and plotting preferences against them, individual LQ patterns could be identified. 

While Taylor and Furnham were clear that this work needed to be rigorously tested (and that another huge factor in LQ is the quality of available training), their work opened up two interesting ideas: that it is indeed possible to measure LQ, and that identifying individual LQ patterns and preferences creates the potential for individuals and organisations to develop their learnability through better self-awareness and targeted learning opportunities. 

More recently, ManpowerGroup developed a web-based awareness-raising tool, similarly designed to help people and organisations identify their own individual and collective LQ by providing insights into motivation and learning capability. According to Jacques Quinio at Right Management, the Career and Talent Management experts within ManpowerGroup, it provides “a teaser which helps to open conversations which might not otherwise take place”. 

The tool identifies an individual’s three strongest learning abilities from nine identified LQ types. These are grouped into three clusters, based on the characteristics ManpowerGroup considers essential to LQ: the mental capacity to learn (intellectual), the ability to explore outside the box (adventurous) and to challenge the status quo (unconventional). 

Learning abilities are not cast in stone, but the tool gives insights into where learning strengths and weaknesses might lie. It can be used with individuals and companies and ManpowerGroup also charts LQ trends across regions and groups: for example, its data suggests that leaders in Europe tend to be more free-spirited and less rule- or etiquette-bound than their counterparts in North America or the Asia Pacific region. 


How organisations can foster learnability 

In a 2016 Harvard Business Review article, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Mara Swan identified three things employers can do to foster a culture of learnability: 

SELECT FOR IT: focus your training efforts on curious people with a genuine desire to keep learning. 

NURTURE IT: model continuous development at all levels of the organisation. 

REWARD IT: acknowledge learnability whenever possible and provide opportunities for new challenge and experience. 


Personal reflection

For companies, says Quinio, it offers a way to assess “their DNA around learnability; how fertile the ground is for learning in an organisation”. In one example, analysis of LQ data from 200 senior leaders, gathered as part of a wider assessment, allowed the company to identify the two areas where they showed particular LQ strength and the two areas where the most development work was needed. 

For individuals, the test gives people the chance to reflect on their own LQ strengths and weaknesses, to consider whether they’re a good fit for their current role, and how their ability to learn impacts on their effectiveness within their teams – and the company more generally. 

According to Quinio, “for too long, companies have been thinking about ‘what people do’, how they build capability. But this is only part of the story. We need to support people across organisations not just with the ability to learn, but to develop an openness to new ideas and capability for constructive challenge.” 

The bottom line is this: individuals must continuously upskill to remain attractive to employers, and employers must provide meaningful ways for their people to learn new skills and adapt to new processes and technologies. Attempts to measure and build awareness around LQ can only benefit this crucial two-way process.