A recent article in the May 12th issue of the Economist (economist.com/blogs/freeexchange) indicates the importance of hope and optimism in helping people be effective problem solvers.Harvard economist Ester Duflo reports that very small successes and demonstrations of trust lead to dramatic and enduring improvement in the willingness of people to tackle problems and invest scarce resources of money and time. Duflo reported that very small gifts, a cow, a couple of goats, or some chickens, to poverty stricken villagers in Bangladesh, with a very small amount of support from the benefactors led to dramatic improvements in the lives of the villagers. After financial help and support ended, villagers were eating 15% more and earning 20% more per month.
One of the best books I have read over the past few years is Daniel Kaheman’s Thinking Fast and Slow. Among the many insights that connect to action learning is his discussion of how the environment impacts the brain and how a change in the environment can significantly improve the conscious and subconscious activity of the brain. For example, in the section on “the marvels of priming,” the author illustrates the effect of words in enabling the brain to be more perceptive and open to learning. Creating an environment in which “cognitive ease” occurs also assists the brain in the enjoyment and speed of learning.
After 25 years as a trainer and consultant working in over 50 countries around the world, I became a professor at George Washington University in 1994 for its global executive doctoral program. Among the courses I was asked to teach was a course called “Action Learning.” I did not know what it was, but the professor who had taught the course had retired, and being the new professor, this was the course given me. In a few months I would have 25 senior executives in this course who had paid $50,000 for this doctoral degree, and I knew I had to be sure my course was “top quality.”
I have just finished providing 3 very successful days of Action Learning training in Shanghai and would like to share some of my experiences and perceptions of Action Learning in China with you. First, I’m happy to say that Action Learning works just as well in China as in the USA, Europe or anywhere else! The problem- solving process of identifying what is working, what can be improved, and what will be done differently going forward works equally well everywhere in the world.
The June 2012 issue of the International Journal of Training and Development features an empirical research study which identified the group elements which lead to team creativity. Team creativity was positively correlated to (1) learning culture in the group, (2) developmental feedback, and (3) team cohesion. Action learning groups incorporate and encourage all three of these dimensions in every action learning session.