Action learning has been an approach I admired for a long time and three years ago I trained to become an action learning practitioner and even got to use it as part of a leadership development programme. Action Learning For Change, which I first read about four years ago and I’m now reading again is one of those books that inspired me to take on action learning. The reason being, the book describes a simple approach to implementing action learning which almost anyone can understand and I like simple. In my opinion Lynee and Nigel have done a brilliant job to make action learning an accessible practice.
About the book, though it covers 220 pages you can read it in a couple of hours and even though the entire book is written in black and white, it’s very visually appealing. It uses a good balance of quotes, bullet points, case studies, tables, diagrams and images. Each chapter is broken into small sections which are easy to digest so reading it won’t feel like a chore. Continue reading
You might have read my book review of Sprint (you can read it here). I also curated one idea from the book which you can read here. Here are ten interesting quotes I gleaned from the book.
- The sprint is Google Venture’s unique five-day process for answering crucial questions through prototyping and testing ideas with customers.
- Good ideas are hard to find. And even the best ideas face an uncertain path to real-world success.
- The sprint gives our startups a superpower. They can fast-forward into the future to see their finished product and customer reactions before making any expensive commitments.
- You won’t finish with a complete, detailed ready-to-ship product. But you will make rapid progress, and know for sure if you’re headed in the right direction.
- When our new ideas fail, it’s usually because we were overconfident about how well customers would understand and how much they would care.
- Before the sprint begins, you’ll need to have the right challenge and the right team.
- When a big problem comes along, like the challenge you selected for your sprint, it’s natural to want to solve it right away. The clock is ticking, the team is amped up, and solutions start popping into everyone’s mind. But if you don’t first slow down, share what you know, and prioritize, you could end up wasting time and effort on the wrong part of the problem.
- Starting at the end is like being handed the keys to a time machine. If you could jump ahead to the end of your sprint, what questions would be answered?
- Slowing down might be frustrating for a moment, but the satisfaction and confidence of a clear goal will last all week.
- You can run a sprint anytime you’re not sure what to do, or struggling to get started, or dealing with a high-stakes decision.
Sprint by Jake Knapp attempts to teach us an engaging and interactive way to come up with solutions and test ideas in just five days. In my opinion the book succeeds at doing that. See my review of the book here. While the book focuses on a single technique, within the techniques are many ideas that canbe used independently. One of such ideas is the ‘four-step sketch’. The four-step sketch is a way to come up with a rough sketch for a potential solution. The four steps involved are: notes, ideas, crazy 8s and solution sketch.
- Notes: during a sprint you will collect lots of information and ideas. The aim of the four-step sketch process is to bring the information and ideas together to begin to create solution for the goal set at the beginning of the sprint. For the notes step, people will be given 20 minutes to go round the room and note down information which they find relevant to the solution being designed. After the 20 minutes is up they will be given an extra 20 minutes to review the information they’ve noted down.
- Idea: next is the idea strage, when each person will start jotting down ideas derived from all the information they collected at the notes stages. Ideas can be jotted down as doodles, headlines, diagrams, stick figures and whatever cones to mind. It does not matter if the ideas look messy or are incomplete. Another 20 minutes is used for this stage.
- Crazy 8s: this is a quick exercises which involves each person taking their strongest idea and rapidly sketching out eight variations of the idea in eight minutes. To do this each person divides the sheet of paper they have into 8 different sections and uses each section for sketching one variation of the idea, so that in the end the same idea has eight variations. Note that the ‘crazy’ does not refer to the idea, but rather the pace of the sketching. The focus here is on deriving usable ideas.
- Solution Sketch: this is the stage where everyone’s idea will be assessed by the whole group. But first each person must take their best idea sketch it out in detail in a three-panel format. This can be three sticky notes or three sheets of paper. Some tips for doing this well are: make sure it is self explanatory, keep it anonymous, it doesn’t have to look elegant, ugly is okay, good writing is important and give it a catchy title.
I previously reviewed Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono . You can read the review here. Here are 10 quotes from the book.
- Instead of judging our way forward, we need to design our way forward. We need to be thinking about ‘what can be’, not just ‘what is’.
- Thinking is the ultimate human resource. Yet we can never be satisfied with our most important skill. No matter how good we become, we should always want to be better.
- The main difficulty of thinking is confusion. We try to do too much at once. Emotions, information, logic, hope, and creativity all crowd in on us.
- A thinking system based on argument is excellent just as the front left wheel of a car is excellent. There is nothing wrong with it at all. But it is not sufficient.
- White hat energy is directed at seeking and laying out information.
- Red hat thinking is all about emotions and feelings and the non-rational aspects of thinking. The red hat provides a formal and defined channel for bringing these things out into the open.
- The black hat is the ‘natural’ hat of the Western thinking traction. With the black hat we point out what is wrong, what does not fit, and what will not work.
- Yellow hat thinking probes and explores for value and benefit.
- The green hat is the energy hat. Think of vegetation. Think of growth. Think of new leaves and branches. The green hat is the creative hat.
- The blue hat is like the conductor of the orchestra. The conductor gets the best out of the orchestra by seeing that what should be done is done at the right time. The blue hat is for the management of thinking. The blue hat is for the organization of thinking. The blue hat is for process control.
Even though the Six Thinking Hats has six hats you can use to facilitate thinking during a session, you don’t necessarily have to use all of them during a session (you can read my review of the Six Thinking Hats here). You can choose to use the hats that are relevant to the topic on discussion. So supposing you are running a meeting and discussing a topic that people have a lot of strong feelings about. For example a new work process, shift work pattern or loss of a benefit, how can you get people to discuss their feelings without it turning into world war III? Continue reading