Action Learning and Asking Questions

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Guest Post by Dr. Michael Marquardt

Note from Bob:  My friend Mike Marquardt – along with his co-authors has just released the 3rd Edition of his outstanding book “Optimizing the Power of Action Learning.”  Here is the endorsement I was privileged to write:

“Does your team have opportunities that need to be seized and/or challenges that need to be met?  Action Learning taps into the wisdom of your team to seize opportunities or to solve challenges with their homegrown wisdom and expertise!  Putting Action Learning to work with your team is an investment that has a payoff potential of a million to one!”

Action Learning has been a game-changer for our organization!  As a first step to putting Action Learning to work for your organization I encourage you to purchase Mike’s new edition today!

Action learning has become the fastest growing organizational tool for solving problems and building leaders.

The power of action learning, which simultaneously encourages individual and team learning while solving problems, is built almost exclusively on the power of questions.

Questions are the language of action learning.

In the “World Institute for Action Learning” form of action learning, there is a ground rule that “Statements can only be made in response to questions.”

Anyone can ask anyone else a question. A question may generate 5-10 responses, or, if a truly great question, it may generate deep reflection, which may lead to great insights as to the root problem or the most powerful strategy.

There are three primary reasons why questions are emphasized in action learning:

(1) questions enable the group to be much more creative.

(2) they keep everyone focused and listening to each other, thus avoiding rambling and repetition.

(3) questions generate learning as well as help individuals develop and practice leadership skills.

Action learning groups have an action learning coach who guides the group through questions so that every group has clear actions and valuable learnings.

In order to continuously improve the norms and thus the performance of the group, the coach will ask the two primary questions of action learning:

  • “What are we doing well?
  • What could we do better?

The coach will also ask questions that helps the group get clarity on the problem, to identify inspirational goals and to generate sustainable, doable strategies.

The questions used in action learning can be a powerful impetus for not only solving individual, group and organizations problems but can be equally powerful and successful in solving global, national and community problems.  The more complex and challenging the problem faced by the group, the more critical is the need for greater questions. Through their participation in action learning, group members develop and improve the most important skill of life – asking great questions.

Michael J. Marquardt is the President, World Institute for Action Learning and a Professor at George Washington University. Mike is the author of 26 books including the just released 3rd edition of “Optimizing the Power of Action Learning.” Click “HERE” to order your book today!