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Optimizing the Power of Action Learning

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Optimizing the Power of Action Learning

Solving Problems and Building Leaders in Real Time

Davies-Black Publishing,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

When action learning teams address real problems for your organization, be prepared for fast, but thoughtful, solutions.

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Editorial Rating



  • Applicable


People with an intense interest in knowing all the details of action learning will find the answer to their prayers in this book. Author Michael J. Marquardt writes with the zeal of a revival tent preacher, filled with the sincere belief that action learning can help solve any problem, meet any challenge or achieve any aspiration. As he clearly explains, action learning is intended to build both knowledge and leadership. He sets out the steps your organization should pursue to implement action learning, and to use it well. He includes questions, checklists and extensive examples. All he omits are any caveats or cautions about this approach. He’s a booster and an expert, just so you know where he’s coming from. getAbstract recommends his manual to human resource professionals.


Action Learning Basics

An intellectual innovator named Reg Revans first applied the principles of action learning in the Welsh coalfields in the 1940s. Action learning involves assigning a group to solve a real problem, making it clear that their future depends on how well they solve it. Coaches assist the team but do not engage in solving the problem. Action learning is suited to fast-paced organizations which face daunting challenges without the luxury of first learning how to solve a problem and then implementing the solution. Instead, they have to learn, act, solve and implement at the same time. This kind of rapid action learning has six components:

  1. The problem – The action learning team is responsible for grappling with and solving one or more important actual problems.
  2. The action learning group – This team of four to eight diverse members wrestles with a problem whose solution is not obvious but whose consequences or implications are damaging the organization.
  3. Questioning and listening – Action learning assumes that asking the right questions will lead to the right answers, so it stresses...

About the Author

Educator and consultant Michael J. Marquardt, is professor of human resource development and Program Director of Overseas Programs at The George Washington University. As president of Global Learning Associates and director of The Global Institute for Action Learning, he has trained thousands of managers around the world. His previous books include Building the Learning Organization, Action Learning in Action and Global Teams.

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