wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
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Reg Revans (1907-2003)Reg Revans


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 Assured!


Key book


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 yourself.

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 sets)

People learn best by helping each other to achieve common aims in small (4-7 people), inter-departmental teams by

  • 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 edition)

Knowledge is the ability to do things.


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