Learning to Learn, Thinking to Think

Chris Argyris introduced the concept of Double Loop Learning in 1991, significantly deepening our understanding of how organizations can effectively learn and solve problems. Unlike traditional learning models, which focus primarily on tactical changes within the existing framework of assumptions and rules, Double Loop Learning encourages organizations to question and potentially modify the underlying beliefs and systems that define their operational norms.

Understanding Double Loop Learning

At its core, Double Loop Learning is about going beyond immediate problem-solving and examining the fundamental organizational assumptions that often go unchallenged. In Single Loop Learning, organizations make adjustments to improve function without altering the basic infrastructure and beliefs that dictate how problems are perceived and addressed. This approach is effective for immediate and straightforward issues but falls short when dealing with complex challenges that stem from deeper systemic flaws.

Double Loop Learning, however, involves a more profound reflection on why an organization operates as it does. It requires questioning the status quo and being open to discovering that current methods might be outdated or misaligned with the company’s goals. This kind of learning challenges teams to look at the bigger picture, asking not just “Are we doing things right?” but “Are we doing the right things?”

Implementing Double Loop Learning

To implement Double Loop Learning, an organization must cultivate an environment where critical reflection is encouraged and supported. This involves fostering a culture where feedback is actively sought and valued, and where it is safe to express dissenting views without fear of reprisal. Leadership plays a critical role here; leaders must model the behavior they wish to see, demonstrating openness to feedback and a willingness to question their own assumptions.

Training sessions and workshops can be instrumental in teaching staff how to engage in this type of critical thinking and reflection. Such programs should focus not just on skills training but also on facilitating discussions that challenge existing norms and encourage new perspectives.

The Why: Benefits of Double Loop Learning

The adoption of Double Loop Learning has several significant benefits. Firstly, it leads to more sustainable solutions. By addressing the root causes of issues rather than just their symptoms, solutions are more likely to be effective long-term. Secondly, it promotes a more agile and adaptive organization. In today’s fast-paced and complex business environment, the ability to reassess and reorient strategies quickly is invaluable.

Moreover, engaging in this deeper level of analysis and openness can lead to increased employee engagement. When staff members feel their insights and questions are valued, they are more likely to feel invested in the outcomes. This not only leads to better problem-solving but also to a more motivated and committed workforce.


In conclusion, Double Loop Learning represents a critical evolution in organizational learning theory. By embracing a culture that does not shy away from questioning fundamental assumptions, organizations can foster a more innovative, responsive, and resilient operational model. This approach does not just solve problems—it transforms the very way in which organizations understand themselves and their paths to continuous improvement and success.