Action Learning Check-In: L-Lab is my Stretch Zone

One of my goals during my time at Sloan was to pursue an Action Learning Lab since I learn best by doing. Action Learning is at the heart of MIT Sloan and the labs provide a chance to channel all of your coursework into a project for a domestic or international client. Last year, I heard about the Leading Sustainable Systems Lab (L-Lab) from 2nd year MBAs and decided to register for the fall class.

As I returned from my summer at a global fashion company with more conviction than ever about my career goals, I was thrilled about the opportunity to work with a different consumer brand around their sustainability initiatives.

Going into L-Lab, I quickly found a team with similar career goals and we successfully bid for the project with the consumer brand. The class moved along quite smoothly and I comfortably settled in to the project. However, I was not prepared for the personal transformation that would soon begin.


While L-Lab emphasizes systems thinking and sustainability, it also provides tools for growth as an effective leader and agent of change. For example, Ladder of Inference is a tool that L-Lab teaches. This tool illustrates how easy it is to take action based on assumptions and conclusions drawn from individual data points.

To illustrate this concept, one might notice another student’s lateness and assume that the student believes that others must wait for him or her or that the student values his or her own time more than that of the rest of the team. This is an easy assumption to make and may in fact be true. However, by suspending judgement and instead asking questions, one may discover that the student has a small child and poor options for child care. By understanding that student’s situation, the team may find more effective ways to work together and experience increased productivity and positive morale.

This practice of suspending judgement pushes me to be more empatheic and more open to other possibilities. In today’s social and political climate, the Ladder of Inference also shows me how easy it is to jump to conclusions based on one data point. Through L-Lab, I am not only learning more about sustainability in the consumer space, but I can already see how the course’s tools enable me to be a more effective leader.

Ginika Agbim O'Kelly

Ginika Agbim O'Kelly is a Nigerian-American MBA Candidate of MIT Sloan's Class of 2017. As an experienced management consultant, Ginika enjoys working with organizations to solve their toughest issues. In addition to pursuing her professional interests in design thinking and innovation, she can be found training for a race, practicing yoga, blogging about fashion and travel, or learning a new language.

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