Proactive Review

Proactive Review

Ditte Kolbaek (Aalborg University, Denmark)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6453-1.ch005
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The aim of this chapter is to provide a theoretically based and proven educational design for learning from experience in the context of a work. This chapter includes some of the theoretical considerations as well as the final educational design for Proactive Reviews, as exemplified in a case study from a worldclass IT company based in more than 60 countries across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. From 2005 to 2012, Proactive Review was developed and implemented in more than 40 countries. The chapter describes the four roles involved in a Proactive Review: the participant, the sponsor, the top management, and the facilitator. The results of a Proactive Review can be both tangible and intangible and have an impact on the participants, their teams, and the organization's products, services, and ways of working. Finally, the chapter provides recommendations for successful Proactive Reviews.
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Learning In The Context Of Work

This section explores G. Bateson’s (1972) understanding of the term “learning” in order to appreciate what it means to learn in the context of work. Learning from working experience may be understood as “Lessons Learned,” which will be explained further. The section briefly touches on the prerequisite for running a Lessons Learned activity, i.e., that somebody or something initiates the activity. Next, the section will examine the learning environment of the workplace.

When the top management of an organization decides that the employees should learn from their experiences in a structured way, they need to consider their own perception of learning as well as the situations they want their staff to learn from.

The top management of a world-class IT company asked for a process to help employees learn from experience and addressed this requirement to the new internal department of Knowledge Management. The company had many years of experience in training, online courses, and online certifications but realized that these were different from learning directly from individual or team experience. Top management did not have theoretical insights into “learning.” In order to establish a common understanding and leverage expectations, the term “learning” needed to be explored and explained. Top management perceived learning as only one thing: that people learn from classes and on-line courses, and that such learning can be tested in exams with certifications. However, learning from experience is different, as is evident by exploring the work of G. Bateson (1972), who distinguished between the following four classes of learning1:

  • 0.

    Sensing: There is a stimulus that causes only one response. The learners will change nothing in their behaviour. For example, we feel cold, but we do not do anything about it. Because the stimulus does not cause a change, this is called zero learning.

  • 1.

    Realizing: We receive a stimulus, and we choose a response from a set of alternatives. For example, we feel cold and so we put on a jacket or go inside.

  • 2.

    Adapting: We receive a stimulus and incorporate the context before we react. We are aware of repetitions, and we consider how to learn from repeated experiences. For example, we feel cold every winter so we install fireplaces in the house.

  • 3.

    Changing: We receive a stimulus and then change the context as a part of our reaction. The double bind is a prerequisite for class three learning. For example, we feel cold every winter, so we put on a jacket and warm up our house. Still, we are bothered by the cold, so we decide to move far away to a new and warmer environment (Bateson, 1972).

The characteristics of double bind are: a) the individual is involved in an intense relationship and he or she feels that it is crucial for the relationship that the communication is right; b) the other party in the relationship expresses contradictory messages; c) and the first individual is unable to challenge the contradictions in meaning and therefore he or she needs to change the framework of the relationship in order to overcome the problem (Gibney, 2006).

Bateson (1972, p. 208) gave the following example of a double bind:

You are my pupil and I hold a stick above your head. If you say the stick is real, I hit you. If you say the stick is unreal, I hit you. If you keep silent, I hit you.

The only way the pupil can avoid the pain is to take the stick from the teacher. The pupil needs to break the framework of the learning environment to avoid being hit. The pupil is used to paying respect to the teacher and doing what the teacher asks. Taking the stick from the teacher goes far beyond the tacit framework of the context. Therefore, the double bind is very demanding for the pupil, who would need to be frustrated to an extent that he or she dares to break the framework of the learning environment. At the same time, the pupil does not know what an alternative framework looks like. This is high-risk, and according to Bateson (1972), it is rare for people to experience class three learning.

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