What is Action Learning?

Action Learning is a process that involves a small group working on real problems, taking action and learning as individuals, as a team, and as an organisation. It helps them to develop creative, flexible and successful strategies to tackle problems.
Action Learning is a well-known and renowned corporate strategy method that produces better insights and dramatically improves decision-making processes.

Historical background

Action Learning is a learning philosophy that was developed in the 1940s by the British management consultant and professor Reg Revans (1907-2003). It took shape when Revans brought coal mine managers together in small groups to share experiences and ask each other questions about what they had seen and heard. Then the productivity increased by 30% because of that. In the following decades, he further developed his insights into a much-praised and applied methodology, which is used by many large organisations.

Samsung, General Electric, Heineken and Boeing use Action Learning to solve complex issues and increase the learning capacity of their organisation.

Action Learning process & components

Action Learning is a process of insightful questioning and reflective listening.
Action Learning tackles problems through a process of first asking questions to clarify the exact nature of the problem, reflecting and identifying possible solutions, and only then taking action. Questions build group dialogue and cohesiveness, generate innovative and system thinking, and enhance learning outcomes.

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1. A problem
The problem should be urgent, significant, and the responsibility of the team to resolve.

2. An Action Learning Group or Team
The Action Learning team is preferably composed of 4-8 people, ideally with diverse backgrounds and experiences.

3. A Process of Insightful Questioning and Reflective Listening
Action Learning tackles problems through a process of asking questions to clarify the exact nature of the problem. Action is taken after reflecting and identifying possible solutions. Questions build group dialogue and cohesiveness, generating innovative and systems thinking.

4. An Action Taken on the Problem
Action Learning requires that the group can take action on the problem it is working on. If the group makes recommendations only, it loses its energy, creativity and commitment.

5. A Commitment to Learning
Solving an organisational problem provides immediate, short-term benefits to the company. The higher, longer-term strategic value to the organisation is the learning gained by each group member and the group as a whole as well as the application of the learning throughout the organisation.

6. An Action Learning Coach
The Action Learning coach helps the team members reflect on both what they are learning and how they are solving problems. The coach enables group members to reflect on how they listen. They then reframe the problem, and give feedback on how the team plans and works together.

The Action Learning coach also helps the team focus on what they find difficult, what processes they employ, and the implications of these processes on what they achieve. With this information, teams can grow and become more cohesive.

The Power of Action Learning

Action Learning helps organisations and people discover their hidden potential and demonstrably improve performance.

Empowering Leaders

  • Enhance personal effectiveness and productivity
  • Reflect on and learn from individual experiences
  • Improve personal leadership and soft skills
  • Develop self-confidence and assertiveness
  • Improve your awareness of how assumptions, beliefs, attitudes and organisational interests influence thinking, decisions and actions
  • Develop your Emotional Intelligence (EI): self-awareness, awareness of others and adaptability
  • Find the courage to speak and encourage others to do the same

Boosting Teams

  • Dramatically enhance team performance
  • Develop positive, mutually respectful working relationships with colleagues at all levels of the organisation
  • Develop individual and team problem-solving and decision-making capability
  • Improve the ability to reflect on, and learn from the collective experience
  • Develop awareness in the context of multicultural diverse teams
  • Continually monitor and enhance team functions

Impacting Organisations

  • Enhance business performance at all levels
  • Improve the efficiency of the work process
  • Rapidly solve urgent and important and business challenges
  • Achieve a substantial Return on Investment (ROI) on organisation improvement projects
  • Set up effective succession planning by developing highly qualified candidates for promotion to executive leadership positions
  • Set goals more strategically
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