Action learning and cooking!

We all know that it’s good to talk, however it’s only when we truly feel listened to that we feel able to air our concerns and deepest thoughts and thus have the opportunity to make sense of them.

Action learning places active listening at its heart, giving participants an all too rare opportunity to explore and reflect on life’s challenges in the workplace. For this to happen, there needs to be an open, honest and safe environment, where certain conditions must be met.

We love this recipe for successful action learning, adapted from the original by Sheila Webb, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, Airedale. It encapsulates the elements needed to bring about the powerful and transformative process of moving from a place where we often feel ‘stuck’ to achieving clarity and a plan of action. Thanks to Samina Ansari who is a recently accredited action learning facilitator, funded by the Rank Foundation, and included a reference to this recipe in her learning log.

Recipe for successful action learning, by Sheila Webb


  • 6 – 8 people
  • Some tasks or problems
  • Commitment
  • Trust
  • Concern
  • Time
  • Experience
  • Support
  • Challenge
  • Risk
  • Facilitation
  • Humour


Take a liberal slice of time, and mix thoroughly with the lifetime experience of several committed people. Sprinkle a generous helping of concern for others, and ad enough trust to mould the mix until it jells firmly together. An added catalytic facilitator may help it to bind.

Season with a little risk. Add support and challenge whenever necessary. Leave to simmer indefinitely, stirring regularly as you feed in a variety of problems. An occasional dash of humour will prevent the mix from sticking.


So what do you get? Opportunities!

  • The opportunity to focus on particular areas of your professional life and to discuss at a level which, for a variety of reasons, you cannot do at work;
  • The opportunity of new perspectives on such areas based upon the experience of others;
  • The opportunity to develop and practise new skills in a relatively safe environment;
  • The opportunity for reassurance that others have also ‘been there before’.

…and friendship

Source: Adapted from the original by Sheila Webb, Consultant and Public Health Medicine, Airedale.

This is a great attempt at encapsulating the essence of action learning and how and why it works. The experience and outcomes are unique to each participant, according to their personal circumstances and our clients say, in their feedback to us, how much it has enhanced their lives.

If you are a member of an action learning set, we’d love to hear what it means to you and what changes it has brought about in your life. Have you changed jobs? Gained a promotion? Gone travelling? We’d love to hear!

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