What is Action Learning?

Developed by British management consultant and professor Reg Revans in the 1940s, Action Learning is a learning philosophy that uses insightful questions and reflective listening to tackle problems.

Arjan tells us, “Action Learning is a process in which a small group of participants [work] on real problems. You take action and you also develop individuals because team members are really part of [solving the] problem…It develops creative and flexible strategies to address problems. It’s a great technique.” (02:47)

Action Learning improves performance by enhancing productivity, improving efficiency, building emotional intelligence, and developing problem-solving and decision-making capabilities. Organizations like Unilever, Samsung, and Boeing all use Action Learning to solve complex problems.

For Arjan, who works at a governmental organization in water management, building the learning capability to solve problems effectively was paramount. After participating in a mini-MBA course at Business School Netherlands, Arjan decided to pursue an Action Learning MBA at BSN specifically because of this unique methodology. “It was totally new for me. I was fascinated about that,” Arjan says. “Are you talking about the real problem? Digging into the real problem and solving it with a team? That’s what is unique about the course.” (01:30)

Benefits of Action Learning

Business School Netherlands is the first institution to implement Action Learning in an MBA program in The Netherlands. Since 1988, thousands of Action Learning projects at BSN have become a reality around the world.

The Action Learning methodology is effective because it generates direct results to real-world problems. Arjan elaborates, “During my MBA, I started to apply [Action Learning] more and more, and you actually saw that the team was getting more creative and flexible.” (04:25)

One of the key reasons behind Action Learning’s success is the diversity of the group. At Business School Netherlands, an Action Learning “subset” consists of four to six people with different backgrounds and experiences. Arjan’s group was made up of professionals from fields such as daycare, IT, HR, and agile working.

“The variety of people who are involved in an Action Learning session make it a success,” Arjan confirms. “The best ideas came from people who were not working in my area because they…were just thinking about the solution. By working with people with different perspectives, you come to the best solutions.” (05:14)

A “small town” feel with a global community at Business School Netherlands

Besides its distinctive Action Learning methodology, Arjan also enjoyed studying at Business School Netherlands because of its helpful support staff and picturesque location.

“What I like best is that it’s smaller, so you have a feeling that you’re part of the organization,” he says. “Whatever part of the organization you need, it’s easy to find them and they’re very helpful and always fast in responding to you.” (00:52)

While BSN has 11 locations around the world, Arjan did his MBA in Buren, a beautiful small town in the east of The Netherlands. “This is a very, very nice area in The Netherlands,” he enthuses. “Because it’s such a small place, it also is a relaxed area. It’s really inspirational to follow your course there.” (07:14)

However, don’t be deceived by its “small-town” feel. MBA students at BSN get access to a global experience. MBA lecturers at BSN have real-world business experience and remain up-to-date with the latest business news and strategies. If you’re looking for a close-knit learning community within a global network, Business School Netherlands might be just what you’re looking for.