What Is Action Learning


What Is Action Learning?

In today’s fast-paced and competitive world, organizations are constantly seeking ways to enhance their employees’ skills and knowledge. One approach that has gained popularity is action learning. Action learning is a dynamic problem-solving technique that combines both individual and group learning. It offers a unique opportunity for individuals and teams to solve complex problems while simultaneously developing their skills and capabilities.

Action learning was first introduced by Reg Revans in the 1940s. Revans believed that traditional learning methods, such as lectures and textbooks, were inadequate for solving real-world problems. He proposed a different approach where participants would actively engage in problem-solving activities, reflecting on the experience, and learning from each other’s insights.

The core principle of action learning is learning by doing. It involves tackling real problems faced by organizations and working collaboratively to find innovative solutions. Unlike traditional classroom learning, action learning is more experiential and emphasizes practical application of knowledge. It encourages participants to take risks, experiment with different approaches, and learn from both successes and failures.

Action learning typically takes place in small groups, known as action learning sets. These sets consist of a diverse group of individuals from different backgrounds and disciplines, bringing a range of perspectives to the problem-solving process. The group members take turns presenting their problems or challenges, and the rest of the set engages in a systematic process of questioning, listening, and providing feedback.

The process of action learning is structured and follows a specific framework. It begins with identifying a problem or challenge that is of strategic importance to the organization. This problem is then presented to the action learning set, and the group collectively explores potential solutions. Through a process of open-ended questioning, active listening, and reflection, the group members help the presenter gain new insights and develop a deeper understanding of the problem.

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Once potential solutions are identified, the group supports the presenter in implementing the chosen solution. This may involve creating action plans, conducting experiments, or seeking additional resources. Throughout the implementation phase, the group provides ongoing support, guidance, and feedback, allowing the presenter to learn from the experience and make necessary adjustments.

Action learning has several benefits for both individuals and organizations. For individuals, it provides an opportunity to develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration skills. It also enhances self-awareness and self-reflection, enabling individuals to improve their own performance and effectiveness. Action learning can be particularly beneficial for leadership development, as it allows leaders to tackle real-world challenges and gain valuable insights from their peers.

For organizations, action learning offers a cost-effective way to address complex problems and drive innovation. By involving multiple perspectives and fostering collaboration, it encourages the generation of creative solutions. Action learning also promotes a learning culture within the organization, where individuals are encouraged to take risks, learn from failures, and continuously improve.


Q: Who can benefit from action learning?
A: Action learning is beneficial for individuals at all levels of an organization, from frontline employees to top executives. It is particularly valuable for individuals who are facing complex problems or seeking to enhance their problem-solving and leadership skills.

Q: How long does an action learning program typically last?
A: The duration of an action learning program can vary depending on the complexity of the problem and the desired outcomes. It can range from a few months to a year or more. However, action learning is not a one-time event but rather a continuous process that individuals and organizations can engage in on an ongoing basis.

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Q: Can action learning be applied in any industry or sector?
A: Yes, action learning can be applied in any industry or sector. The principles and techniques of action learning are flexible and can be adapted to suit the specific needs and context of different organizations.

Q: How can organizations get started with action learning?
A: Organizations can start by identifying a problem or challenge that is of strategic importance and forming action learning sets. They can then provide training and support to the sets, ensuring that they have the necessary skills and resources to engage in effective action learning.

In conclusion, action learning is a powerful approach that combines problem-solving with individual and group learning. It offers a unique opportunity for individuals and organizations to address complex problems, develop critical skills, and drive innovation. By actively engaging in the process of learning by doing, individuals can enhance their problem-solving, collaboration, and leadership capabilities, while organizations can foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement.