Action Learning is a powerful tool for the transformation of people and organisations and it can also be difficult to sell to people who haven’t experienced it. Here are some quotes that might help you to understand its potential:

Reg Revans describing Action Learning

“Action learning particularly obliges subjects to become aware of their own value systems, by demanding that the real problems tackled carry some risk of personal failure.”

“…in having to draw upon one’s commitment one is forced to enquire into what one really believes, as distinct from what one may claim to believe while arguing in the seminar or at the case-study.”

“Thus, we may more accurately describe action learning as development of the self by the mutual support of equals…”

“It was the interest that all displayed in the way totally fresh questions would be unexpectedly raised.”

“….those best able to help in developing the self are those comrades in adversity who also struggle to understand themselves…”

“… responsible action is, in itself, an effective learning process.”

“Thus it is that action learning does not pretend to supply the subject with much fresh cognitive knowledge; it is sufficient to help him use more effectively what he already has, and to reinterpret the experiences of yesterday in the light of tomorrow.”

“Our real need is to look at the reality around us and say “Why is it that I am so unable to do anything about the mess we are now in?’ And to ask “Could I meet other people elsewhere who are also saying the same?’ We will not make progress until individuals recognise that they have difficulties in doing what they are doing . The only way to understand those difficulties is by discussing your troubles… and your inabilities with others who are ready to talk about theirs.”

Comments from participants

Here are some of the things people have said about their experience as quoted in Action Learning: A Practical Guide by Krystyna Weinstein (Gower 1998).

“What distinguishes the action learning spirit is that it’s not about answers to questions, or solely decision-oriented; nor is it about getting advice or information. It’s about questions and space to talk and think.”

“Ignorance is ‘ok’. I’m allowed to not know things. We’re often so afraid of asking questions in case people think us stupid.”

“It gives you much wider horizons and understanding of the organisation.”

“Before, I’d simply focus on what I wanted to achieve – but how I was going to was not something I spent too much time thinking about. Now I set goals, consider options for getting there, flag up issues I need to consider further.”

“I’m excited by its common sense. It takes away the fear of ignorance – which instead becomes a source of strength, because you’ve identified what you don’t know, and that’s the first step to begin to learn, to ask questions, and to apply that in the everyday situations you operate in.”

“I didn’t realise how powerful – but also how unnerving – it was to be the focus of everyone’s attention, to have their undivided attention. It felt wonderful.”

“The most common problem that everyone faces is relationships with others. By hearing others grapple with this you gain ideas about how to cope differently yourself.”