Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Applying Action Learning thinking into modern classroom and workplace. Reducing the time between learning and application.

Action Learning

This important idea was invented by British management thinker Reg Revans, action learning is a deceptively simple idea. So simple, in fact, that its power was overlooked for years. The basic idea is that managers learn best when they work on real issues in a group, rather than in the traditional classroom.
According to Revans, 'Action learning harnesses the power of groups to accomplish meaningful tasks while learning'.

To explain action learning, Revans created a simple equation: L = P + Q. Learning (L), he says, occurs through a combination of programmed knowledge (P) and the ability to ask insightful questions (Q). In essence, action learning is based around releasing and reinterpreting the accumulated experiences of the people in a group. Working in a group of equals (rather than a committee headed by the chief executive or a teacher), managers work on key issues in real-time. The emphasis is on being supportive and challenging, on asking questions rather than making statements.

While programmed knowledge is one-dimensional and rigid, the ability to ask questions opens up other dimensions and is free-flowing. The process is a continuous one of confirmation and expansion. The structure linking the two elements of knowledge and questions is the small team, or set, defined by Revans as a 'small group of comrades in adversity, striving to learn with and from each other as they confess failures and expand on victories'.

Action learning is the antithesis of the traditional approach to developing managers. It is only now, belatedly, being embraced by many business schools as a way to ensure that the neat classroom theory is accompanied by a modicum of useful learning. (Revans correctly argues that many educational institutions remain fixated with programmed knowledge instead of encouraging students to ask questions and roam widely around a subject. He is contemptuous of business schools and of the flourishing guru industry.) Business schools are only now catching on.

Until quite recently, most executive education programmes were packed with concepts and ideas. Content was king. Business schools crossed their fingers and hoped that when participants returned to their jobs some action would arise. It was the learning equivalent of shooting arrows in the air: shoot enough and you just might hit something. Today, that approach is no longer adequate. Companies want learning that's targeted to hit the spot - their spot.

Modern organizations want executive education to do more than fill managers' heads. They want it to transform the way they work. Firms want to see connections between the concepts business schools communicate and their own internal issues. There is a movement away from traditional formats - chalk and talk - toward new approaches, including action learning. It asks managers to focus on their own experiences, not dissect dead cases.

'In the past there was an idea of a business school as knowledge factory, where knowledge is handed to participants. Now we want to bring participants inside the knowledge factory. We're moving towards co-creation of knowledge with our customers,' explains Vijay Govindarajan, professor at the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration in New Hampshire. He continues: 'In the traditional model - learning - the arrow goes from learning to action; in action learning, the arrow goes from action to learning'. Executives, Govindarajan says, learn more when they do things.

Asking questions and listening to answers is an increasingly important managerial skill. Action learning encourages both. Contrast this with executives being 'forced' to go on training courses. The potential benefits of action learning, however, cannot disguise the challenge it presents. Action learning is no quick fix. It requires a fundamental change in thinking.

'The essence of action learning is to become better acquainted with the self by trying to observe what one may actually do, to trace the reasons for attempting it and the consequences of what one seemed to be doing,' says Revans.

All action learning shares a number of features. It:
 uses a genuine current problem or issue as a learning vehicle (not a past case study);
 takes a group approach (peers working together provide support and different perspectives);
 accepts that there are no experts (naive questions illuminate the issues);
 requires commitment from the sponsoring organization and management; and
 focuses on asking questions rather than providing solutions.

Action learning provides benefits for both individuals and organizations. The key benefits available for the learner from action learning include moving beyond the limits of thought, behaviour, and belief, putting behaviour in line with beliefs and values, and making individual behaviour more effective.

The following benefits have been attributed to action learning:
1. reducing the time between learning and application;
2. concentrating the learner's attention on results and process;
3. focusing on the present and the future;
4. reducing costs;
5. providing feedback to group members on performance;
6. delivering innovative solutions;
7. increasing organizational commitment; and
8. enhancing organizational learning.



Post a Comment

Place Your Comments Here

Recent Posts

Make Money Profit

Smart Money Success. Financial Success. Business Success.

Online Success Center. Professional Resources for Online Success.

Yahoo MyWebLog Recent Viewers

Business & Life Success Resources Centre

Support Us

1. Rate Me 5 STARS-->

2. Favourite my Blog --> Add to 

Technorati Favorites
3. Vote me --> Top Blogs
4. Vote me -->
5. Just Click this one only--> the best
6. Just Click this one only --> Blog Directory
7. Click "HOME" -->
8. Rate me --> blog search 

9. Rate Me --> Rate My Blog

Verified Blog

Total Pageviews


Learning Corner.Engineering Books.Management EBooks.Business Books.Computer Book.Discount Bookstore. Copyright 2008 All Rights Reserved Revolution Two Church theme