Earlier this week, I borrowed a book from the library. Advertising guru Paul Arden’s It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be. Aptly titled like one of those Lifehacker or Zenhabits blog posts, Arden’s book is basically one of those self-help manuals to put you on the path to sunshine and success. One section in particular ties in with the Chris Argyris’ reading on double-loop learning and it’s titled If you can’t solve a problem, it’s because you’re playing by the rules.
Oh, all you rebels!
Single-loop learning occurs when given or chosen goals, values, plans and rules are operationalized rather than questioned. Let’s make this easier to digest. Example: You get a Distinction (God forbid!) on an assignment and you’re like, “Pokéballs! Why didn’t I get a HD? What did I do wrong?” You frantically check the assessment matrix and consult your tutor. You don’t quite understand why you had to do blah and blah to get a HD, but whatever, you’re still going to meet those criteria for the next assignment so you can score that HD and ice that bruised ego. Protect self and others unilaterally, check. Treating ones’ own views as obviously correct, check.
Double-loop learning, on the other hand, will have you question the matrix’s requirements instead of mindlessly complying to them. Like, “why the hell must I do blah and blah to get a HD?” or better yet, “why the hell are we graded in the first place?”. Argyris wants organizations to practice more double-loop learning. But let’s not go there today. Instead of discussing organizational development and whatever not, I want to explore the concept behind double-loop learning.
In a nutshell, Argyris wants more people to speak up, quit being prudent, challenge authority and make better progress. I see this mindset espoused so very often. There is that streak of rebellion, hint of fiery ambition. Even during my first year at university, I was constantly urged to challenge established frameworks and “denaturalize” my surroundings. I suppose, it is this act of pushing the envelope that helps us progress as mankind and society. After all, it was how we discovered the Earth wasn’t flat. Someone somewhere had to endure others’ giggling fits when he proclaimed the Earth was round. But most people are afraid and deep down, so am I. To progress, our desire to be “good” has to outweigh our fear of being wrong. And that, my friend, makes me crap Nutella. So here is where I leave you with some timely Kerouac wisdom: