Reg Revans (1907-2003)
English long jumper (who competed at the 1928 Olympics), management professor and inventor of action
learning (which, he said, was the best way to train managers) – see below.
Revans (pictured right) had a low opinion of management education – he called the MBA, Moral Bankruptcy
Action Learning (1974)
What is action learning?
1. Learning by doing
This is based on:
- the humility to admit (and not hide) your own ignorance and
accept new knowledge.
- asking constructive questions to find the truth (so
critically evaluate what experts tell you).
- observing and reflecting on what you do and making sure your
reasons for doing it are appropriate.
2. L= P+Q
This is Revans’ equation for explaining action learning, where:
L = learning.
P = programmed knowledge (traditional teaching that
gives relevant knowledge).
Q = questioning insight (critical reflection and
inquiry including the ability to ask appropriate questions).
3. Learning not teaching
Learning isn’t just inwardly digesting new information but also discovering solutions for
So each learning group (called an action learning set) has a set
adviser who doesn’t dictate but coaches people to learn for themselves in
collaboration with other group members – see point 4.
4. Listening and collaborating in small groups (or action learning
People learn best by helping each other to achieve common aims in small (4-7 people), inter-departmental teams
- critically analyzing their successes and failures.
- finding solutions to relevant questions and problems.
These groups may also include suppliers and customers to find new ways of satisfying customers.
Revans wrote in another book:
“The ultimate power of a successful general staff lies not in the brilliance of its individual members,
but in the cross-fertilisation of its collective abilities”.
Key quotes on learning (from the 1980 edition)
The clever man will tell you what he knows; he may even try to explain it to you. The wise man encourages you to
discover it for yourself.
Action learning shows its strength, not in finding the answers to questions that have already been posed,
but in finding the questions that need to be answered
Key quote on knowledge (from the 1980
Knowledge is the ability to do things.