People’s first exposure to Emergent Learning tends to be using one or two tools to support a group’s conversation about its work. But Emergent Learning is much more than that. Emergent Learning is a field of practice, using a variety of interrelated tools over time as a platform to deepen and institutionalize a group’s ability to consistently achieve or exceed desired outcomes even in the midst of unpredictable challenges. We call this suite of tools, therefore, the 4QP Emergent Learning Platform.
This platform has been used to support many different kinds of activities -- strategic and annual planning, developmental evaluation, leadership development and communities of practice, supervision, leadership, coaching and innovation. Using the 4QP Emergent Learning Platform for these kinds of activities creates a shared language and a robust experimental framework that helps ideas take form more quickly and speeds “time-to-solution.”
The most prominent Emergent Learning tools, Before and After Action Reviews (BARs and AARs) and Emergent Learning Tables are described below. BARs and AARs support real-time learning over time around strategic goals, recurring challenges and new opportunities. Emergent Learning Tables support growing shared knowledge across an organization or network around a particular question and identifying opportunities to take learning forward into real work. For more information about other tools in the 4QP Emergent Learning Platform, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Real-Time Learning: Before and After Action Reviews
Before and After Action Reviews (BARs and AARS) are a set of practices that make it easier to learn in real-time from real work. They create a discipline that helps a group learn iteratively and improve over time by actually seeing the result of their thinking and seeing their results accelerate. BARs and AARs build a team’s capacity to perform by comparing actual results with intended results, exploring causes of those results, identifying successful practices to sustain and improve, and planning for how to apply insights to future performance. This improves an organization’s agility -- its ability to predict and address challenges in dynamic environments.
We have researched the origins of this practice deeply, in many visits to the Mojave Desert over the course of ten years to see it in action. (Harvard Business Review, July/Aug 2005)
While deceptively simple, using these specific questions before and after anything from a meeting to a major piece of work will help teams create shared accountability while strengthening their collective thinking in order to improve their capacity to achieve the results that matter.
Growing Knowledge: Emergent Learning Tables
"Emergent Learning Tables are more than a tool. They are a blueprint for how living systems learn, and reflect recent research findings in neurobiology and cognitive science."
- Arie de Geus, author of The Living Company
Emergent Learning Tables help a team or a cross-section of teams or organizations articulate its best collective thinking about what it will take to succeed, develop a plan to test it, track results, and produce high quality lessons learned.
Emergent Learning Tables are scalable and can be applied in a variety of situations. The visual structure helps groups think through what they already know about a core challenge based on their experience to date and translate that knowledge into testable hypotheses for future work.
The 4QP Emergent Learning Platform for thinking and action sets the stage for a natural adaptive process. As a team tests, refines, adapts and re-applies its thinking, it builds robust knowledge about how to resolve a particular challenge. The product is improved results, better data for evaluation, more transparent decision-making, and the creation of an "engine" which, over enough revolutions, builds the team's ability to learn its way through any challenge.