Action learning and you
Wright, N. (2023), 'Action Learning and You', Action Learning Associates, 27 January.
Action Learning is a multi-skilled process. How can those offering questions enhance their impact?
I imagine something like a coffee table between us. As the presenter talks about a challenge, issue or opportunity, I imagine them metaphorically painting a picture on the table, perhaps adding something like colourful photos from magazines, to depict their situation vividly. If, as someone offering questions, I allow myself to follow the presenter’s gaze, to focus my own attention too on the scenario that is unfolding, I risk losing sight of the presenter. It may draw myself and the group into the same place where the presenter feels stuck; diminish the potential for transformation.
How can I know if this is happening, if I have become inadvertently preoccupied with or seduced by the drama a presenter is presenting? Here are some tell-tale signs: ‘Tell me more about…’; ‘I’d be interested to hear more about…’; ‘Could you share the background with me..?’ It could be that the presenter’s issue resonates with an area of my own interest, expertise or experience; or that I have subconsciously slipped into diagnostic-consultant mode, with a view to finding or creating a solution for the presenter. It’s as if, implicitly, ‘If you give me enough information, I can resolve this for you.’
A radically different approach is to hold our attention on the presenter, to be aware of the figurative coffee table in our peripheral vision, but to stay firmly focused on the person in front of us. This is often where the most powerful action learning insights emerge. Here are some sample person- orientated questions: ‘Who or what matters most to you in this?’; ‘What outcome are you hoping for?’; ‘As you talk about this now, how are you feeling?’; ‘What assumptions are you making?’; ‘What are you not-noticing?’; ‘What are you avoiding?’; ‘Now that you know this, what will you do?’