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The Art of the Science Behind qChange Series: Action-based learning

I hear and I forget.

I see and I remember.

I do and I understand.

Confucius (a long time ago)

The Art of the Science Behind qChange series highlights the Science behind qChange, while also describing the Art of applying that Science. For reference, in previous weeks we focused on utilizing Nudge Theory to prompt positive behavior from leaders right before critical meetings. Then we walked through how we use Neuro-Linguistic Programming to talk to leaders in a style that resonates with them. In the last two weeks we spent time on Self Determination Theory (SDT) and our core needs that move us towards growth, and the critical need for leaders to be more Self Aware. The last few weeks have been focused on the importance of gratitude in the workplace, for the giver, the receiver, and the whole organization.

Later this week, I’m virtually presenting at the SIOP (Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology) in a session on Action-based Learning, particularly on using these concepts to develop better leaders and better cultures. I’m looking forward to representing qChange with participants from BetterUp, Deloitte, and Google. This is timely as we take many of the principles of action-based learning and apply them within our qChange Leadership Experience (LX) solution.

So, what is action-based learning? Action-based learning is a “[…] problem-solving tool that […] involves a small group working on real problems, taking action, and learning as individuals as a team, and as an organization while doing so.”1. In a leadership development setting, it involves learning by doing…by taking action towards real-world leadership opportunities, issues, and challenges. Action-based learning typically involves creating teams to solve these problems. Within qChange we use the natural teams that see the leader in action, meeting after meeting (we call them Influencers). An action learning cycle involves a continuous process of planning, acting and observing, and reflecting until the project is complete. Essentially, leaders are learning by working. That’s exactly what our LX cycle offers.

Leadership development is a huge industry. places it at $366B in 2019. However, numerous articles talk about the waste and failure of leadership development programs. A McKinsey article2 highlights four reasons why. These reasons why are much better addressed and minimized through action-based strategies like qChange and others.

Overlooking context. By placing the leader in the real world and learning by doing, the importance of context is better addressed.

Too much reflection, not enough application. Pulling leaders out of the workplace and into classroom settings is limited. Even the best leaders have difficulty taking their offsite experiences and applying in the real world. In fact, even after very basic training sessions, adults typically retain just 10 percent of what they hear in classroom lectures, versus up to 70 percent when they learn by doing. 

Underestimating mindsets and culture. Leaders that stretch themselves, try new things, challenge mindsets and cultures, and ask for feedback, are the ones that truly thrive.

Failing to measure results. Action-based learning is all about achieving results. Within qChange we measure those results, the learning and growth that is happening for the leader, through our proprietary Leader Score.

Developing Leaders by doing, in meetings, in the flow of work. The qChange Leader Experience (LX) solution. To learn more, please see:

John Howes, Ph.D.

CXMO & Co-Founder

1. Marquardt, M. (2004) Action learning: Solving problems and building leaders in real time. Davies-Black Publishing.


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