Action Learning for new founders

We are delighted to introduce Action Learning as an invaluable element of the Scale-Up offer for new business founders.

What is Action Learning?

According to the World Institute for Action Learning, it is “a process that involves a small group working on real problems, taking action, and learning as individuals, as a team, and as an organization. It helps organizations develop creative, flexible and successful strategies to pressing problems.”

“Action Learning solves problems and develops leaders simultaneously because its simple rules force participants to think critically and work collaboratively. Action Learning is particularly effective for solving complex problems that may appear unsolvable. It elevates the norms, the collaboration, the creativity, and the courage of groups.”   https://wial.org/action-learning/

OK, sounds intriguing. But what does it have to do with running a start-up?

Running a start-up, particularly if it’s the first time, can present a huge number of things you hadn’t realised you would need to consider, overcome or learn on the job. It’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed, and presents a significant risk to the survival of new venture. Being part of a trusted peer network has been proven to boost your resilience and ability to cope with conflicting demands, to make confident decisions, and to feel more in control.

We believe being part of a trusted peer network is so important that we’ve made membership of an Action Learning Set a core element of our support offer to start-up founders.  This belief is underpinned by Lancaster University Management School’s research undertaken while delivering ALS to SME leaders, click here.

Do I really have time for this?

If you are entirely immersed in working ‘in’ your business and not devoting time to working ‘on’ it, then it’s something we’d strongly recommend you make time for. With your head down on the day to day, it’s very easy to lose track of where you are going and why. Having a clear view of these things will strengthen your ability to prioritise and make strategic decisions that will help you use your time more effectively.  In the words of Mark Woodward, CEO of The Printed Cup Company and LU Entrepreneur in Residence,

“Those puzzles that keep you awake at night…where you are losing business…talking them through in this way, arriving at solutions myself…if it weren’t for that, we wouldn’t be here today.” 

Who will I be with?

You will join a Set – a cohort of 5-6 start-up founders, some of whom you may already know, others who will be new to you. Everyone will have their own experience and achievements, and their own challenges, that will complement your own, ensuring everyone can make valuable contributions to one another’s leadership development. We will ensure the membership of your Set will not place you alongside direct competitors to ensure the most open and constructive discussions.

The sessions are facilitated by Richard Baguley, an experienced entrepreneur who has personally experienced the benefits of being a member of an Action Learning Set. Initially, Richard will guide the discussions to demonstrate how to enable peers to effectively tackle their own problems, but over the time, the Set will most likely become more self-facilitating.

How frequently do Sets meet?

Typically Sets meet on a monthly basis, although some meet more or less frequently as getting 5-6 people together in one place will be logistically challenging and a degree of pragmatism is required. We will support scheduling for the first meeting of you your Set and subsequent meetings can be determined by its members are all in contact.

What if I don’t like it?

Of course, being a member of an ALS is not for everyone. Indeed, it may feel uncomfortable to share your business issues with strangers, or to be challenged in this way. In fact, this discomfort is part of the learning process, but is usually short-lived as you begin to approach problems more objectively, reflectively and systematically. If it’s really not for you though, you can withdraw at any time.

What other support is available?

Action Learning is only one element of the University’s support offer to new businesses. In addition, you can access:

  • Industrial Insights & Mentoring
  • Design Thinking Sprints
  • Drop-in Clinic
  • Business Model Validation
  • £500 R&D funding
  • E-Hub Hot-desking Space
  • Networking sessions and masterclasses

If you would like to know more, please contact enterpriseteam@lancaster.ac.uk