In The ABC of Action Learning, Reg Revans says “All with inexorable certitude, will be called upon to disclose much that they had for many years successfully hidden from themselves, such as what (if anything) they really believe in… or why they say the things they say, and do the things they do.”
In Action Learning Sets, we explore complex problems with no easy or single solutions and learn from resolving them. Part of the exploration is to critically examine our habitual assumptions, behaviours and values and how these affect our actions and interactions. This is the ‘double-loop learning’ described by Argyris and Schon.
The thought-provoking questioning which is at the heart of AL creates different perspectives on, and new insights about, both the problem and ourselves.
Great questions which address double-loop aspects include:
What were/are you assuming about it/them?
If you weren’t assuming that, what would be different?
What do you believe about yourself in this situation?
What do you believe about others?
What effect are your beliefs having on your actions?
What do you normally do in such situations?
What effect does this have?
What would you like to change about that?
What are you learning about yourself/your usual way of approaching problems like this?
Since these questions are challenging and might be experienced as intrusive or confrontational by Set members, it’s important to gain permission for this level of exploration. This can be addressed in the group contract or ground rules and it can also be addressed explicitly in the contract which the Set makes with the problem presenter before starting to work on the problem.
The ABC of Action Learning, Revans, republished 1998 Lemos & Crane
Theory in Practice – Increasing Professional Effectiveness, Argyris & Schon, 1974 Jossey-Bass