There are many benefits to using action learning as a developmental approach. Here we highlight three key benefits:
Learning from others: because the focus of action learning is work-based issues, shared with others, one of the most important benefits is being able to learn from others’ experiences of dealing with similar issues. This enables you to gain insights through working with others and this also offers opportunities to broaden your awareness through hearing others’ views.
Extending your leadership repertoire: giving advice is something we have learned from childhood (being told by our parents), in schooling and in further education and training (by educators). As busy clinicians and managers with little time to deliver, we can be asked questions and given problems to be solved all day long, and we do so by giving advice. However, evidence shows that little sustained learning takes place when given advice, and often those in leadership roles end up ‘taking on the problem’. Action learning focuses on changing this way of interacting with others, by working on asking questions; open, probing, and challenging questions – all of which help to draw out what Revan’s refers to as “exploratory insight” (Revans, 1998:6) which leads to taking action.
Having impact at work: One of the problems with many developmental approaches is that they do not focus sufficiently on impact at work. People are sent on training programmes and development is seen as individual not organisational. Revans recognized this gap:
“there can be no learning without action, and no action without learning” (Revan, 1998:83).
One of the main benefits of action learning is that it facilitates people to both reflect on a work based issue and share that with others, and as a result, formulate actions and decisions that they then take back to their workplaces, which results in change.