Action Inquiry is a method of learning that involves the subject as well as the object, the self as well as the system or organization investigated. As a method, it increases the rate of learning and effectiveness. Action inquiry encourages everyone involved to be intentionally ironic and to continually question purposes, strategies, and behavior while adjusting these on the basis of feedback about their impact in the situation. Action Inquiry demands high levels of curiosity, awareness, and willingness to experiment and learn from experience and feedback.
Action Inquiry is situated in and interweaves three realms: the self, relationships and systems. It can lead to radically improved leadership because it simultaneously attends to learning and to productivity. Action Inquiry combines inquiry with action to radically increase the effectiveness of leaders and organisations.
As leaders develop the skills and processes of action inquiry their capabilities are enhanced:
Through inquiry they become skilled questioners – able to unearth hidden assumptions and beliefs, discover inconsistencies, identify patterns and see new possibilities
Through action, particularly purposefully designed, safe-to-fail experiments and prototypes, leaders are able to innovate to create surprising results
Through reflection and intentional learning from experience, even in the midst of action, leaders are able see more of the whole picture and act systemically
In its most developed form Action Inquiry is more formally referred to as Collaborative Developmental Action Inquiry (CDAI).
In this form, developed by Bill Torbert and a wide range of associates and explored in depth in their book Action Inquiry. The Secret of Timely and Transforming Leadership, it can become a lifelong process of transformational learning that individuals, teams, and whole organizations can undertake if they wish to become increasingly capable of listening into the present moment from which the future emerges; increasingly alert to the dangers and opportunities of the present moment; and increasingly capable of performing in effective, transformational, and sustainable ways.
In the book they refer to action inquiry as:
… a kind of behaviour that is simultaneously productive and self-assessing. Action inquiry is behaviour that does several things at once. It listens into the developing situation. It accomplishes whatever tasks appear have priority. And it invites a revisiting of the task (and of our own action!) if necessary. Action inquiry is always a timely discipline to exercise because its purpose is always in part to discover, whether coldly, precisely or warmly and stumblingly, what action is timely.
If this intrigues you and you would like to find out more or to explore the possibilities it offers please contact me.