Thursday, May 13, 2010

Action Learning

I attended a very interesting session today on Action learning. The session was run by Dr Michael Marquadt who is President of the World Institute of Action Learning. He has shown companies like Microsoft, Novartis, Boeing and Nokia how to implement action learning in their teams.
Some of the interesting points he made:
1. Action learning is important because we don't really learn any other way. If we learn to play golf, we learn by doing. We can't learn to play unless we pick up a club and go around the course. We then reflect on how we played and implement the learnings next time. Every 2 year old continuously does action learning - they act as they learn to communicate and to walk.
2. Leadership skills are best improved via action learning. Leadership can't be taught in the classroom. Action learning gives us the opportunity to work on real problems in real time and use real skills. This in turn gives us leadership skills as we work through simple and complex problems.
3. Action learning enables systems thinking, team building, problem solving and strong communication through questioning techniques.
4. There are 6 key components to action learning:
You need an urgent problem or a task or challenge. It could be a short term problem or a crisis or something long term.
Constitute a group of between 4 - 8 people - no larger than 8.
Set the norms for the group. The focus is on questioning. The rule is that anyone can pose a question - any type of question, open or closed. Anyone can respond. There are only questions and answers. Nothing else.Everything is done in the form of a question or a statement.
Everyone in the group has to take action before or after the session.
You know at the start of the action learning session that you are going to do several things simultaneously - you are going to problem solve, learn how to be a better leader and become a better communicator. Each person in the group will be empowered and will learn more and will solve problems faster.
The group needs an action learning coach who focuses the group on the process they are undergoing and who helps the group to perform better and to be more creative.
the 2 ground rules of an action learning session are:
You either ask or answer a question
The coach has the power to intervene and to develop the leadership skills of the group.
Some of the typical questions in an action learning session that a coach can ask, once a problem is selected and once the team has had a try at asking and answering questions:
What have we done well?
What can we do better?
I am not sure we are building on each other's questions. What could we do about that?
Do you think we have agreement on what the problem is?
How did you feel you utlised your leadership skills in the process?
How could you have asked better questions?
What have we learned here?

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