Friday, November 18, 2005

Getting started in action learning

Action learning is a simple, iterative approach to changing something in the world as you learn about how to be more effective. It's a loop of planning, acting, observing, and reflecting. You can enter that loop at any point you want. It's closely related to action research, so closely related that it may not be worth differentiating the two. Sometimes action research is seen as culminating in the publication of the lessons learned for others, while action learning is seen as a more individual or small group action.

The lessons of action learning can often be expressed in the form, "If I'm in situation X and want to achieve goal Y, I am often well served by trying action Z." It's very situational.

Many find it helpful to keep a journal for guiding their action learning: unaided memories tend to forget key factors and weight the recent past more heavily than it perhaps deserves. Bob Williams and I created a set of learning logs that some have found helpful. In explaining them to someone today, I realized the nine (!) forms to download plus the reference to the book chapter may make it all sound intimidating.

Here's a quick intro to get you started:

  1. Download reflections.doc. Print it out, and use it daily for a while. That may be all you want.
  2. If you're concerned about where your time goes, download timelog.xls, follow the included instructions to customize it, print it, and use it daily for a while. Again, that may be all you want.
  3. After a few days or weeks, you may have new insights about how you are most effective. Consider using eltform.doc to create a personal "user's manual": your custom guide to ways you are most effective.
  4. Goals help us focus our efforts, and goalform.doc is intended to support that, if you find it helpful.

The rest of the forms are available as guides for those who might want to create their own personalized organizers based on these ideas.

If you use these, Bob and I would really be interested in hearing what you're learning about the process of action learning and the use of learning logs or other journaling techniques. Thanks!


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