Anecdotes of Action Learning: Realizations of an Indian B-School's Sustainability Lessons

Anecdotes of Action Learning: Realizations of an Indian B-School's Sustainability Lessons

Saravan Krishnamurthy (Symbiosis International University, India) and Vishal Pradhan (Symbiosis International University, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2642-1.ch008


The objective of this chapter is to narrate the realizations while developing sustainability lessons by Action Learning (AL) for inclusion within an MBA-IT Business Management curriculum. This process is elucidated in a narrative style. The premise was set by ALs of earlier cohorts' trials, errors, improvisations, and reflections. In the year 2015, the Institutional Social Responsibility (ISR) team attempted scaling up ‘Learning by Doing.' In 2016, a ‘Consolidate and Optimize' approach was adopted. Each activity used a reflexive approach during AL evaluations. Together, AL practitioner and learners developed incrementally maturing sustainability lessons for the subsequent cohort. The chapter aims to share experiential learning with all stakeholders in higher education. An overall shift from apathy to empathy by virtue of AL to implement sustainability lessons is the highlight of this chapter.
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Indian Business school curricula need to include sustainability lessons to reshape into new patterns of learning. A disturbing trend was observed i.e. business students focusing on solely on profiteering rather than inclusive growth. Personal benefits had gained more importance than citizen’s participation, in the growth of business and country together. Such a mentality may have promoted apathy, to the exclusion of empathy. Taking cue from the three pillars of sustainability of economic feasibility, social equality and environmental soundness (United Nations [UN], 1992), sustainability lessons were deliberated upon by faculty. As a solution, incremental inclusions sustainability lessons were implemented, in the year 2013. These experimented ‘Trial and Error’ methods received high student participation and appreciations. After reflections and evaluations, the inclusions of sustainability lessons continued in the year 2014 by developing new actions for AL sustainability Lessons. Upgrading AL with industry visits and collaborations with civil society organizations were attempted. Shortcomings and corrections were noted throughout, followed by reflections and evaluations. These follow-through exercises helped to develop an internal capacity building environment for the AL team. Based on these initiations of AL for sustainability lessons in earlier cohorts, the current chapter narrates further AL developments in the years 2015 and 2016. Beginning with a re-organization in 2015 of the Institutional Social Responsibility (ISR) team to adopt sustainability lessons, maturing in delivering sustainability lessons within traditional business courses and culmination in interdisciplinary research in 2016 are described in this chapter. For easy comprehension of the whole process, it is recommended first to understand Figure 1 that illustrates the flow of AL spirals in a detailed ‘Plan-Act-Observe-Reflect’ diagram. The iterations of an Indian B-School’s attempts at AL are listed below.

  • (Year 2015) SCALING UP ‘LEARNING by DOING’: The objective was to address nationally critical issues, and to simultaneously align with University vision. The Institutional Social Responsibility (ISR) team was revamped, and a scaled up bustling environment ensued with multiple AL actions, gathering more students’ participation. ALs on a selected cluster of sustainability issues, relevant evaluations of each activity with reflexive approaches yielded useful augmentation for next cohort. Shortcomings, reflections, and corrections were recorded.

  • (Year 2016) ‘CONSOLIDATE and OPTIMIZE’: The objective was to consolidate into lesser number of activities than before and optimize with better quality of AL reflections ensued. The cohort that began AL in 2015 received carefully designed interventions during their courses in each subsequent semester. Student teams were empowered to try self-governing vision setting and self-organizing themselves towards one social cause per team. After receiving the full cycle of sustainability lessons, this cohort has concluded well with student research publications on sustainability.

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