Management Hall of Fame
Most Respected Management Gurus
Reg Revans (Reginald Revans)
"Unless your ideas are ridiculed by experts, they are worth nothing."
- Studies at Cambridge.
- Represents Great Britain in the long jump at the Olympics.
- Appointed chief education officer for Essex.
- Becomes director of education for the UK mining industry (later the
National Coal Board).
- Returns to academia to research management of coal mines and
develops theories of action learning.
- Accredited in Belgium success of industrial national output over
- Holds range of professorial positions in the fields of industrial
administration and management, campaigns around the world including
third world countries like India and Egypt.
Professor Reginald Revans, coined the term Action Learning to describe
an educational method that he developed in the UK in the 1940s. Action
learning is an educational process whereby the participant studies their
own actions and experience in order to improve performance. This is done
in conjunction with others, in small groups called action learning sets.
It is proposed as particularly suitable for adults, as it enables each
person to reflect on and review the action they have taken and the
learning points arising. This should then guide future action and improve
The Action learning method differs with the traditional teaching
methods that focus on the memorization and presentation of knowledge and
skills, by focusing on experiential reflection as a major learning tool.
Revans argued against the overvalue of the traditional "chalk and talk"
management education and he believes that people learn most effectively
not from books or lectures but from sharing real problems/projects. He
called it "action learning."
The contribution of Revans is being seen today through initiatives in
leadership development working towards organization development. Many
universities and management consultants developing new approaches to the
education of leaders interested in work-based learning.
Revans distinguished between puzzles and problems, noting that action
learning lent itself to working on real problems (e.g. improving
productivity or morale rather than puzzles e.g. constructing a balance
sheet.) He also noted the distinction between cleverness (i.e.
knowledge) and wisdom, which showed in the form of insightful
questioning. Revans achieved major honors in Belgium where he linked
higher education with industry achieving major results that impacted on
national economic recovery.
People had to be aware of their lack of relevant knowledge and be
prepared to explore the area of their ignorance with suitable questions
and help from other people in similar positions. To Professor Reginald
Revans, the learning process may be expressed as:
Learning (L) = P + Q ; where L is learning, P is programmed
(traditional) knowledge and Q is questioning to create insight.
Programmed knowledge (P) is conveyed through books, lectures, and
other structured learning mechanisms.
Insightful questions (Q) are those questions that are asked at the right
time and are based on experiences or an attitude about ongoing work
Revans maintained that P is the domain of experts, while Q is the
domain of leaders who wish to drive projects forward by getting
- four "major" questions: where? who? when? what? and
- 3 "minor" questions: why? how many? how much?
Although Q is the cornerstone of the method, the more relaxed
formulation has enabled action learning to become widely accepted in
many countries all over the world.
To succeed in Action Learning need the following:
- The learning context must be a real working/project
- Scheduled input of theory knowledge /lectures should be kept to
a minimum and more time for time for workshops, meetings and
- Commitment from top management and team members with No hidden
- An independent adviser needs to be present from the life of the
team to facilitate, help or guide when needed.
- An atmosphere of and openness to confronting sensitive internal
- Flexibility in terms of scheduling
Books & References:
- ABC of Action Learning (The Mike Pedler Library)
- Revans, Reginald. (1980). Action learning: New techniques for
management. London: Blond & Briggs, Ltd.
- Revans, Reginald. W. 1982. The origin and growth of action learning.
Brickley, UK: Chartwell-Bratt.
- Revans, Reginald. W. 1998. ABC of action learning. London: Lemos and
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