Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve started to explore the concept of action learning. It is a bit of a preview of the capstone course I’ll be taking next spring, so I’ll be curious to come back to this post then and see if or how my thinking changes.
As a way of quick introduction for those not already familiar with action learning, it is a way to approach problem solving that goes beyond just providing a solution, but seeks to explore the problem more deeply through questions and reflection, thus not only resulting in a better solution but also providing learning to those involved. I have to admit, I approached this idea with a fair bit of skepticism. It seemed time-intensive and academic, and I immediately jumped to reasons it would never work in my current workplace. But then I realized, that was exactly the kind of behavior (jumping to conclusions) that action learning can overcome.
Last night, I viewed a video of Michael Marquardt’s keynote address to the Virginia Association for Adult and Continuing Education on action learning. When I woke up this morning, I realized that one point in that talk was still rumbling around in my head. Great questions always lead to great reflection. Great reflection always leads to great learning. And great learning always leads to great action. I am on board with most of that, but I am still reflecting on that last part about always leading to great action.
Marquardt talked about the type of problem best addressed by action learning. He said it must be urgent. I suppose it is that urgency that comes into play that drives the learning into action. I wonder if the instances I’m thinking of that did not result in great action were caused by (a) not enough good questioning upfront to define the true problem or (b) not enough urgency to require action.
It’s said that things happen in 3s. Last fall I was introduced to contemplative meditation, asking a series of why questions to get at the source of your beliefs. A few weeks ago, we had a presentation in class about root cause analysis, a common business practice in which you continue inquiry until you discover the true source of the problem. And now, action learning. Taken together, these three cover my spiritual, professional, and academic pursuits. I look forward to developing my questioning and reflection skills as I continue to learn more about each.
So in true action learning format, I shall leave you with a question, thus allowing you to respond with statements. (Feel free to do the same in your replies.) What experiences have you had where questioning led to reflection, which led to learning… that resulted in action?