In brief, it is ‘learning through doing and doing through learning’. The basic premise is that those closest to the problem are best able to solve it. It is summed up by the equation: L = f(P + Q)
where L = learning, P = programmed knowledge, (in other words, what we already know and carry around in our brains) and Q = questioning, (to gain insight into how people think, feel and preceive).
If the rate of learning exceeds the rate of change in the environment then individuals/organisations can thrive. If learning is less than the rate of change, then failiure is likely.
Reg Revans, a physicist, who worked at the Cavendish Laboratories in Cambridge, came up with the idea when wrestling with the structure of the atom in the 40’s!
I came across action learning a few years ago, and now see it as an extremely powerful methodology for organisational improvement. Business-driven action learning is a variant that aims to focus action learning on the busienss objectives of organisations. The Singapore conference I’ve just come from brings together best practice, and many organisastions similar to CSC have found it useful (e.g. Siemens, GE, Intel, etc).