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About Action Learning


Action Learning solves problems and develops leaders simultaneously

Action Learning has emerged as a method of choice for global companies, government agencies, and non profit groups that want to improve quality, cut costs, create new products and services, and change the cultures of their organisations.
From Boston to Brazil, from Finland to Tokyo, companies as diverse as Samsung, Dow, GE, Deutsche Bank, Boeing, Sodexho, Novartis, Nokia and many others use Action Learning to solve complex problems, develop leaders, build teams and expand corporate capability.
Since Reg Revans first introduced it to coal miners of Wales and England in the 1940s, Action Learning has become a dynamic process that assists organisations to challenge the status quo, and to develop creative, flexible and successful strategies. Action Learning positions inquiry at the core of organisational behaviour, develops critical thinking and creates mutual respect among employees at all levels.
The focus on inquiry speaks to Peter Senge’s concern that organisations should move from institutional training to a learning environment. Action Learning solves dilemmas of all sizes, and is particularly effective with complex problems that may appear unsolvable. It elevates the norms, the collaboration, the creativity and the courage of groups that solve problems of great urgency to the organisation.
Action Learning solves problems and develops leaders simultaneously because its simple rules force participants to think critically and work collaboratively, and because the group’s coach, the Action Learning coach, assists group members to reflect, not on their problem solving, but on the elevation of their group functioning and on examples of their leadership skills. Action Learning participants become effective leaders as they solve difficult problems.

The purpose of Action Leaning is not just to promote local action and learning, but to bring about organisational change.

Professor Reg Revans first introduced and coined the term “Action Learning” in the coal mines of Wales and England in the 1940s. In Revans interpretation, the purpose of Action Leaning is not just to promote local action and learning, but to bring about organisational change.
Reg Revans described Action Learning with the formula L= P + Q, where Learning (L) occurs through Programmed Knowledge (P) and Insightful Questioning (Q).

Components Of Action Learning

Action Learning is a powerful problem solving tool that has the amazing capacity to simultaneously build successful leaders, teams and organizations.
It involves a small group working on real problems, taking action, and learning both as individuals and as teams.
Action Learning is most effective when all six of these components are in operation.

Action Learning Helps The Organization As A Whole And Its Members Individually And In Teams

  • Assist succession planning by developing a cadre of highly qualified candidates for promotion to executive leadership positions.
  • Deepen participants’ confidence in their leadership and team participation skills.
  • Enable participants to establish effective, mutually respectful working relationships with co-workers at all organizational levels.
  • Develop competence among individuals and teams in problem-solving and decision-making processes.
  • Relate action research/action learning theory and methods to organizational challenges.
  • Develop in participants an awareness of how their implicit assumptions, beliefs, attitudes, preferences, and organizational interests influence their thinking, decisions and actions.
  • Increase competence in preparing and presenting recommendations concerning urgent organizational issues to executive management.

Benefits Of Action Learning

Unlike most other group processes, Action Learning does not require members to be trained. Under the guidance of an Action Learning Coach, the team can be up and running within just minutes of forming.
The more urgent and complex the problem at hand, the better suited for Action Learning. Complex problems require the team to see the problem as a whole, rather than in parts which the Action Learning process enables.
Leadership training programs often fail at transferring learning once the learner leaves the classroom and enters the complexity of the real world. Action Learning flows with the dynamism of the open system and the learning is immediately applied to the group, bringing about a change of behavior and thinking process.
Action Learning enables clarity of thought through deep questioning. Members are made aware of their implicit assumptions, beliefs and attitudes which in turn affect organizational decisions and outcomes.
Action Learning believes that the answers lie within the team members. The coach merely acts as a mirror to the team and facilitates reflection. Diversity of views is encouraged and power is balanced within the team, between leaders and members, bosses and subordinates. The true capability of the team can hence shine.