Did you ever learn how to learn?

That is, do you know how to acquire the knowledge, skill, and mindset necessary to understand and adapt to whatever situation you encounter?

Action Learning excels as a catalyst that drives individuals, groups, and organizations to become continuous, thoughtful learners.

Characteristics of a Learning Orientation

  • The practice of group coaching gradually builds a learning orientation, which means that this method promotes trust, openness, a willingness to share ideas and knowledge, insight, motivation, skill development, and accountability. Participants learn in just the right doses at just the right time.
  • Action Learning, the foundation of Group Coaching, is an iterative process that involves:
  • The reevaluation, acceptance, and rejection of ideas so that new knowledge emerges
  • Unlearning: a readiness to discard old ways of thinking and acting, challenge traditional practices, accept new perspectives, and acquire new knowledge and skills
  • Reflection—a type of disciplined thinking which increases the quality of solving problems and taking action
  • People becoming partners in creating and expanding existing sources of knowledge
  • Asking “are we doing things right?” Are we doing the right things for ourselves, each other, our organization? Are we probing to the underlying assumptions behind our goals and strategies?
  • Self-evaluating performance
  • Increasing risk-taking ability

People even learn to question what is considered “sacred” or “undiscussable.”

Sacred cows make the best hamburger. Mark Twain

Action Learning: Creating Knowledge through a Transforming Experience

An organization can choose from many different types of performance improvement methods. These methods promote short-term and surface-level change:

  • Structured workshops
  • Guest speakers/experts
  • Process improvement
  • Departmental problem-solving meetings
  • Task forces/focus groups

Other methods promote long-term, deep-level organizational change—they are all variants of Action Learning:

  • Rotation assignments
  • Executive coaching
  • Group Coaching
  • Town hall problem-solving sessions
  • Strategic planning work
  • Re-structuring roles and responsibilities

Action Learning entails learning from concrete experience, critical reflection, group discussion, and experimentation. It is an optimal method for integrating learning and work, because group members engage in action, inquiry, and reflection. However, action without learning doesn’t increase cognitive and emotional intelligence, and learning without action does not effect change. Cycles of sharing ideas, testing assumptions, clarifying interpretations, and valuing input from others regularly result in members expanding their knowledge so that fresh, innovative solutions become possible.

Organizational learning occurs through the shared insights, values, knowledge, and new mindsets of the participants. The ongoing acquisition of skill and knowledge, and the organization’s ability to direct avenues of inquiry in ways that bring the company closer to its goals, drives learning continuity and improves organizational fitness. Employee engagement and morale increase through increased involvement in shaping organizational life. The organization benefits greatly as contributors share accountability for their role, work, and decisions.

We are most effective as a team when we praise each other without embarrassment and disagree without fear. Author Unknown

Team learning occurs as people combine their mental power, emotional intelligence, personal attributes and diverse points of view. The synergy of group experience enables members to recognize the connection between individual problems and the social and political context that creates them. From the start, as they struggle with the basics (getting organized, making decisions, balancing individual needs with group goals), individuals learn how to be good team members, not simply good individual contributors. Furthermore, teams can focus on developing the skills that are high priority at the time.

Individual learning occurs as people become:

  • Aware of (and learn to modify) non-productive behaviors
  • Less dependent on authority and experts for instruction and guidance
  • Receptive to challenges to their own preferences, standards, and ways of thinking
  • Sensitive to whose interests are served by maintaining the status quo and who will benefit from change
  • Adept at skilled questioning
  • Attuned to group dynamics
  • Better listeners
  • Knowledgeable of organizational goals, policies, issues, politics, and cross-departmental contributions.

Often we place too much emphasis on the desired results and not enough on the person we need to be to achieve and support those results. Larry Hehn

Coming upGroup Coaching: Benefits and Key Characteristics

Read about the components of present-day Action Learning and how it increases learning capacity through group coaching.