What is it: "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 organization. It helps organizations develop creative, flexible and successful strategies to pressing problems.
Action Learning solves problems and develops leaders simultaneously because its simple rules force participants to think critically and work collaboratively. It is particularly effective for solving complex problems that may appear unsolvable. It elevates the norms, the collaboration, the creativity, and the courage of groups. Action Learning coach assists group members in reflecting on the advancement of their group functioning, rather than on their problem solving. In this way, Action Learning participants become effective leaders as they solve difficult problems.
Action Learning 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 systems thinking, and enhance learning results.
- A problem: The problem should be urgent, significant, and the responsibility of the team to resolve.
- An Action Learning Group or Team: The Action Learning team is ideally composed of 4-8 people, ideally with diverse backgrounds and experiences.
- 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.
- An Action Taken on the Problem: Action Learning requires that the group be able to take action on the problem it is working on. If the group makes recommendations only, it loses its energy, creativity and commitment.
- A Commitment to Learning: Solving an organizational problem provides immediate, short-term benefits to the company. The greater, longer-term strategic value to the organization is the learning gained by each group member and the group as a whole as well as the application of the learning throughout the organization.
- 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" (www.wial.org).