• The Future IS Action Learning


    During the BSN Graduation Ceremony Mr Twan Paes, one of our most experienced Action Learning trainers, addressed the question whether there is a future for Action Learning. His statement is that “the future is action learning”. Keeping and improving your Action Learning skills are key for the future performance of management, Mr. Paes concludes.

    Dear graduates, family, friends,

    Congratulations with obtaining your Action Learning MBA degree. Frank asked me: is there a future for Action Learning? That is a great question. Action Learning is developed in the 50’s. Is it still relevant today? Yes, it may even be more relevant than ever! Organizations increasingly have to cope with a growing diversity and uncertainty.

    Does Action Learning help to respond to that? And does it help us to create new opportunities?

    I really think so. Many organizations (and their leaders) have not yet found a successful and sustainable way of dealing with this uncertainty and diversity. We do not succeed by just managing the so called upperstream. Therefore it is important to create an atmosphere in which all persons feel appreciated and respected, as well as supported. These invisible aspects of the undercurrent require leadership skills. Action Learning involves attention for both the upperstream and the undercurrent. It also requires a balance in the roles of leader, coach and manager. The power of Action Learning is that it contributes to the continuous process of achieving consensus on challenges and problems. It begins at an early stage! Let’s take primary school as an example. The great Action Learning question in this case is: “How do I prepare children for their unpredictable future? ”. This is absolutely different from the past, since we have always prepared people for a more predictable future. But also the banking sector, industry and government should keep asking these kind of questions.

    To reach agreement within a team, it takes Action Learning Coaches who can speak about the problems. Also, they need to be able to make use of the power of differences in their team. Action Learning Coaches need to be able to let others learn. Recently, I was talking with a student who gave such a striking example: “Although his decent preparation for implementing strategies, he was increasingly engaged with the diversity and emotions in the undercurrent. This was demanding for him. It required more than just knowledge of models and theories.”

    So, does Action Learning help us to create new opportunities and cope with increasing diversity?

    Yes, as long as you keep working on skills. Like problem analysis, dialogue, teambuilding, giving feedback, etcetera. Furthermore, it is important to realize three roles, namely: leader, manager and coach. Leadership means: having a vision and to convey inspiration to your employees. The manager sets targets, determines the strategy and makes adjustments. As a coach you are motivating people to keep developing themselves as individuals, and motivate them to develop collaborative skills.

    Is your MBA degree sufficient to do all that? No, it is just the start. What is ahead of you is lifelong learning. Keep curious and face the uncertain future. Action Learning is the key to success.

    I wish you all the best with your future challenges. You have all deserved your MBA degree, but in the future you all need to prove to be worth it. Frank, you asked me: is there a future for Action Learning? No, the future is Action Learning! Graduates: enjoy this beautiful day and keep on Action Learning… The companies need you. Thank you for your attention.

    Twan GW Paes MBA MALC

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  • Rikkyo University receives the WIAL Global award in the Academic Sector!

    The Business Leadership Program at the College of Business (COB), Rikkyo University was awarded at the Action Learning Global Forum in India for its distinctive approach that develops student’s leadership by using action learning. WIAL Japan reported this successful achievement.

    Prof. Higano mentioned that by implementing action learning, he was not only able to encourage students’ independence, but also was able to build up the culture at COB. He stressed the high evaluation that the program is receiving even from outside of the university: The COB’s activities were selected as an excellent model and as GP (good practice) for education from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology’s (MEXT). A clear and important measurable indicator of the program’s success: the COB’s evaluation and employment rate after graduation is on the rise. Prof. Higano received applause from the participants in the Global Forum, especially by illustrating his presentation in the Japanese style of utilizing videos.

    [Comment by Prof.Higano]

    “I used the following metaphor in my presentation in Delhi. The status of BLP at COB at Rikkyo University was like parachuting down to the middle of people who do not understand the purpose of leadership education, barricading in a trench, and waiting for the main unit to advance (meaning the purpose of leadership education to be understood broadly). “Leadership without authority” was not popularized in Japan when we started the program. While being surrounded and not being able to escape (and not wanting to escape), one of the tunnels dug to resupply from the faraway allies was action learning. With this approach, faculties and student assistants (SA) learned their function during project-based learning (PBL) classes, and students learned leadership based on questions. This created a culture of feedback at COB. The advancement of the main unit (meaning the purpose of the leadership disseminating in the society) happened around 2011. First, Rikkyo University received the Excellent Award from WIAL-Japan. Winning an award from WIAL, I am very happy that patiently waiting in the trench has finally paid off.”

    [Application of action learning in BLP]

    In BLP, concepts and action learning sessions are integrated into activities, and professors and staffs utilize their skills as action learning coaches in the classes. First, 500 newly-enrolled students in COB experience action learning in the Welcome Camp, the one day introductory orientation. By organizing action learning sessions in the Welcome Camp, teambuilding and relationship-building between the new and sophomore students is developed allowing them to socialize easily. Secondly, action learning sessions are conducted in the middle of the term when the PBL-style class is offered to give opportunity for students to reflect back on their activities as team. To support such programs, faculty and staff at COB entered certified action learning coach program provided by WIAL-Japan. Professors and staffs utilize their skills and functions as coaches to question, which they learned in and out of the training courses. This has created an active communication between students and faculties, some of them asking the typical action learning question “how can we do it better?” in the middle of the class. As Prof. Higano presented, action learning is used at COB as a useful tool, and it also contributed to build up the culture at COB by sharing the importance of asking questions.

    Fumiyo Seimiya

    WIAL Japan

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