According to the latest research from ATD, 78% of leaders say that leadership development is critical to their business and 76% of companies use experiential learning to develop leaders. But with only 28% of those surveyed claiming to be highly effective at developing leaders, we have to ask what’s missing?
Experiential learning can be action learning, simulation or on-the-job coaching, rotations and challenging assignments. The ATD study found that the best companies are using experiential learning with both senior and frontline leaders. High performing companies offer a wide range of experiential learning opportunities and spend more resources on the design and management of these activities.
Every leader gets on-the-job experiences on a daily basis. But turning these into experiential learning requires designing, structuring and supporting the experience in a way that enables the leader to gain their “Aha!” moments from it. As discussed in a recent post, learning agility is key to this and a core part of learning agility is having space and time to reflect on their experience.
Speaking recently with Geert Egger, one of Europe’s leading action learning practitioners, he emphasised the difficulties in making space for reflection in today’s fast-paced, demanding world:
“Since the days of early action learning work the speed or rhythm of societal processes has increased tremendously. Post-modernism is a hectic drive for peaks, and you tend to want more and more of them, quicker and quicker. Because of this trend, if your task is to make space for reflection in action learning, then you are presented with a severe challenge. You will be under pressure from people and settings, which are no longer that inclined to just stop, take time, stay silent, turn inwards, build up – merely for the sake of obtaining perhaps even troublesome insights.”
“The short term company horizons, the intense performance orientation and the aggressive career ambitions sometimes create environments where action learning initiatives will have to deal upfront with the challenge of actively preserving the reflection elements despite the company’s subconscious inclination to sacrifice this if under pressure. “This is not very business-like” I was once told by a business client when arguing for the importance of keeping time and space for reflections in an ongoing action learning process. His perception is of course wrong, but nevertheless expresses an immediate – dare I say un-reflected – thought process shared by some business peers.”
Egger and his colleagues have continuously experimented with radically pruning and boiling down the action learning ingredients while still trying to preserve the main benefits from this unique way of learning. The result is what they call an Action Lab® Intensive, which is a process with significant pre- and post-event coaching, but with the main event lasting only 5 days – or 100 hours – of fully committed action learning with selected in-company participants.
The Action Lab® Intensive program has shown plenty of success, running for over 13 years at Novo Nordisk as well as across a broad range of sectors and organizations. Another client, Grundfos, have used the method to challenge their existing strategy for business development in one market segment and develop a new approach to accelerate sales.
The outcome benefitted the company on three levels: the business, the person, and the organization:
- At the business level, 17 ideas were produced from the Action Lab® resulting in the strategy being refined and a consolidated strategy developed that was implemented over the following 2 years.
- At the talent level, the participants received feedback from each other and from the facilitators, as well as follow-up coaching. They established a strong network that they continued to use to help each other solve problems and share inspiration.
- At the organizational level, a new network of segment managers emerged fostering acceleration of the business in the segment. The Grundfos HR staff involved in the program gained a better understanding of the action learning concept and capability to facilitate workshops in other parts of the Grundfos organisation.
Would you like to accelerate the development of your future leaders and simultaneously solve a strategic challenge for your business?
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Tennyson LLC is the exclusive provider of Action Lab® in the USA as a strategic partner of Action Lab® A/S.