In what ways do the format and process of Learning Journeys promote these key competencies, and thus foster sustainable and innovation-oriented organizations?

Characteristics of Learning Journeys

The term "Learning Journey" is based on the idea of an ongoing journey of exploration. It evokes a search or an openness for new experiences that promote the above-described key competencies in the development processes of both individuals and organizations.

Within the development format of our Learning Journeys, individuals and/or organizations embark upon a quest to find new questions or new ways to view old questions. This is about finding inspiration and ideas, as well as space to be creative, to experiment and to try out new ideas. "Double-loop learning" opportunities within the process encourage learning both as individuals and as a system. The format sets a process in motion by which ideas are generated, and social spaces are discovered and designed. From the perspective of developing an organization, this means developing a common vision and a beneficial culture, and fostering this vision and culture on a self-organized basis by means of suitable projects.

Above all, Learning Journeys mean:

• Learning to value one's own ideas and those of others, as well as testing them promptly in practice—turning to action.

• Promoting targeted creativity, entrepreneurial and interdisciplinary action, as well as the ability to reflect—becoming effective.

• Learning from theory, but also how to question theory by means of practice—exploring the future.

The Learning Journey format sketched here generally consists of six different phases (cf. Gebel, Neusüß, & Stark, 2009), whose content is launched in the form of guided workshops and then consolidated in the form of parallel (as well as subsequent) "peer learnings":

1. The first phase begins with an assessment of the starting point and the potential, enabling participants (in-house or stranger groups) to formulate their individual learning objectives and to make contracts that lay the foundation for future learning and doing.

2. The second phase focuses entirely on a spirit of exploration, or what is termed "seeing and sensing" (Scharmer, 2007). Methodological approaches from the empirical social studies as well as biographical work are used to school participants' awareness of societal imbalances. This provides useful stimuli for considering the potential need for action. Participants then turn directly to action (small projects), both as individuals and as temporary teams (Argyris, 1993). This means trying out new paths, and/or doing things differently on standard paths.

3. The third phase concentrates on building teams. The experiential space thus far created motivates participants to generate creative ideas themselves and to open themselves to new enterprises.

4. The focus in the fourth phase is on strategy and project development. Deliberately kept open at the beginning, the teams now become set as they take action in the course of this phase. Major factors in ensuring positive project trajectories include reflecting on team role models, and identifying competencies in the team.

5. The main part of the fifth phase of the Learning Journey is the encounter with the target group for the projects and enterprises initiated. This means convincing the people/customers of the merit of the ideas, and where appropriate, identifying the needs of the respective "markets" or fields of action.

6. At a concluding event, the enterprises and projects developed are presented internally within the organization or to a (semi-)public audience. A major aim of this presentational event is to reflect once again on the learning experiences acquired, and thus to reinforce them. Other relevant actors in the field may benefit from these reflections on the learning experiences. Which ones were the most exciting? What enabled things to be learned that are relevant to other actors in the system too? What were the biggest mistakes? How can these learning experiences sustainably reinforce each other within the respective system/organization? (See Figure 12.2).

Depending on the topic of the Learning Journey, workshops integrate visits to various model projects, cultural and artistic sites, and other places of inspiration to serve a "look outside the box" purpose. These encounters also invite actors from the field to a dialogue, and generate stimuli of both fruitful and disquieting types. The practical experience thereby gained should help to implement the self-generated ideas. These encounters are not integrated as "one-way streets" or as "exhibits" for purely display purposes. In a true spirit of dialogue, the same applies to the actors encountered at the model projects or social enterprises visited, if these encounters provide them with stimuli as well.

Self-organization into peer groups (called Learning Journey teams) plays a special role in the Learning Journey process. Depending on the number of participants, the group divides into Learning Journey subgroups which are charged—outside the workshop setting as well—with the task of exploring learning spaces "outside the box" for their respective subgroups.

Depending on the specific design and features of the Learning Journey, the subgroups are supported by team coaching or the participants are supported by individual coaching. For in-house Learning Journeys at companies, it is especially important in our opinion to support the pro

Learning Journey process.

Figure 12.2. Learning Journey process.

cess by means of personnel development programs or by external (team) coaching.

On their journeys, the participants gather useful learning experience on three levels: (1) individually, (2) within their subgroups as Learning Journey project teams, and (3) as an overall group within the process of the specific Learning Journey.

Distinguishing between the competence profiles and learning goals of the individual on the one hand, and those of the "team" on the other one hand, generates a creative tension that can identify developmental opportunities and hurdles. After all, the competencies of a team grow out of the competencies of each individual team member. However, they only bear fruit in the sense of "A team is greater than the sum of its members" if the members can combine them to allow their potential to unfold both individually and as a group in ways that adequately address the situation and the task.

It may be the case that the team does not possess all the necessary qualifications and experience to pursue the desired goals in a promising manner. If so, this means identifying lacunae and adding fields of exploration and knowledge. For this reason, successively more finely tuned layers of reflection are built into the process in order to enhance it and modify the course where needed. When phases are completed and objectives attained, the process is reflected upon and improvements worked out. This process contains the potential for continuous further education and for sharing newly acquired knowledge within the team.

Our Learning Journeys should not be understood so much as a "tool" or "method", but rather as an attitude with which we embark upon a customized journey of exploration and remain "en route" over the course of a process.

We will now describe selected working and learning experiences with students at the Technische Universität (TU) Berlin.[1]

University example: Learning Journeys for Future Decision Makers

We have been carrying out Learning Journeys on a regular basis since 2007 with different emphases at European and German universities (Duisburg-Essen, Cyprus, Berlin), based on the prototype developed at the Universität Duisburg-Essen in 2006-2007 (see Gebel, Neusüß, & Stark, 2009). Major learning goals include establishing the ability to reflect and take social responsibility, and developing the capacity for innovative and interdisciplinary work. This means making diversity productive, and building gender and diversity competence into the process. It also includes the abilities to set oneself into motion and to set tasks for oneself, to use "peer learning" as a vital practice, to identify the need for support and knowledge, and to organize networks. In addition, it means learning self-organization as well as team and communication skills (e.g. clarifying expectations, elucidating roles, identifying potential), acquiring practical experience at an early stage,[2] fine-tuning awareness and self-reflection by developing a culture of learning and of mistakes, and coping with "unknowns" along the way. This list of qualifications, with its content-based focus on social entrepreneurship, represents considerable new cultural and pedagogical territory for today's (university) education.

Eight single-semester Learning Journeys have been offered since 2009 at the TU Berlin. They have given students from all departments at different universities in Berlin the opportunity to develop social entrepreneurial enterprises/projects as "elective courses."[3] Each journey, or seminar, has had 12 to 18 members. The itineraries in Berlin, the city as a university learning space, and the identification of suitable learning sites have differed for each individual Learning Journey depending on the composition of the group and on how their interests and questions developed with respect to their topic. The journey sites were proposed by the participants, agreed upon in the seminar and with the seminar leadership, and organized by the students themselves.

  • [1] The Learning Journeys in Cyprus and in Berlin were guided by Dr. Claudia Neusufj in the course of guest professorships.
  • [2] We thank the Tiimiakatemia (Team Academy) Finland for numerous ideas, especially with respect to the importance of learning that is driven by action and practice.
  • [3] Two further Learning Journeys have been held on the topic of "How to become a change agent for gender diversity in Europe?" in cooperation with the Heinrich Boll Foundation. They focused on questions of change agency and empowerment and on developing equality-oriented analyses with innovative interventions ("what can I do, what can we do?").
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