3-D Managerial Effectiveness Seminar (3-D MES) – Action Learning

Action Learning

From a book one cannot learn how to manage, neither is management a science. By means of ‘Action Learning’ one will link theory direct with one’s own practice. ‘Action Learning’ means one learns with others and in particular also learns from one another.

Action Learning is a form of ’learning by doing’.

  • An experience-based approach to develop people by making use of meaningful problems as a pivotal way to learn.
  • An approach to individual and organisational development. Working in teams or groups, people will tackle issues relevant to typical organisational problems and learn from their attempts to bring about change. Traditional instruction, transfer of “programmed knowledge", is appropriate where we are faced with "puzzles" - challenges that have one proper answer. However, where we are faced with "problems" - challenges that have no proper answer - we need critical reflection or "questioning insight". Action encourages learning such reflection by the providing the support that enables people to learn from challenges, by themselves and from the process itself. The benefits of the learning at all levels is that the acquired knowledge is more likely to be found transferable to other situations and participants are likely to be engaged in "double learning" when not only they receive feedback on their actions, but also find their underlying assumptions and mental models under scrutiny.

Action Learning typically comprises the following activities

  1. Experiential learning.
  2. Creative problem solving complexity.
  3. Acquisition of relevant knowledge.
  4. Co-learning group support.

Each thesis or activity can be regarded a necessary component, yet insufficient by itself, to be considered ´Action Learning´.

Characteristics of Action Learning

  1. An emphasis on learning by doing.
  2. Conducted in teams.
  3. Addressing company / organisational issues.
  4. With participants placed into problem-solving rolls.
  5. Where team decisions are required.
  6. Formalised into presentations.

The ´Action Learning´ formula.

Professor Reg Revans first introduced and coined the term ´Action Learning´ in the coal mines of Wales and England in the 1940’s. In Revans' interpretation, the purpose of action learning is not just to promote local action and learning, but to bring about organisational change as in "The enterprise as a learning system" (1969).
Reg Revans has described Action Learning with the formula L = P + Q, where learning (L) occurs through Programmed knowledge (P) and insightful Questioning (Q)

Usage of the Action Learning applications

  • To address problems and issues that are complex and cannot easily be resolved.
  • To find solutions for underlying root causes or problems.
  • To determine a new strategic direction or to maximize new opportunities.
  • Generating creative ideas.


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