Understanding Action Learning

By Judy O'Neil; Victoria J. Marsick | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
Deciding if Action Learning Is
Right for Your Organization

“The wisest mind has something yet to learn.”

—George Santayana

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there!”

—Lewis Carroll

Leadership development has taken front-and-center stage in organizations today, and Action Learning (AL) has become a preferred approach to developing leaders in many organizations.1 There are a number of reasons for this preference: a rapid and everchanging global work environment,2 a desire on the part of organizations to see development efforts produce tangible outcomes, and a recognition that people are more motivated to learn when the experience is relevant to their lives.3 Despite its growing popularity, AL by its very definition—learning by doing real work—means many things to many people. We are writing this book to help practitioners make sense of some of the more frequently used versions of AL so that they can choose among them when launching AL in their organizations.

We also offer lessons from experience—our own and that of others—to provide rules of thumb in working through the many challenges that arise from AL. Learning from real work is typically as messy during development initiatives as it is in the real world. It is this strength—real world work carried out within a protected environment that allows people to make and learn from mistakes—that makes AL attractive but also makes it much harder to plan for, control, and con-

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