Argyris and Double Loops

Edward has a go at trying to read the web page I set about Chris Argyris. It’s directed at organisational learning which is itself about knowledge management (how do you know what the people in a company or institution know, how do they know what others might know? and in the context of Argyis’s work, in a knowledge economy, how can an institution learn since in a knowledge economy making more knowledge = growth). Yes, make mistakes. Notice them. The double loop bit is the thing that matters though. Single loop – you make a mistake you try a different way of doing it. Double loop, you go back and look at the reason why you’re doing what you’re doing and question that. Double loop means you pay attention to the framing assumptions you have, which includes your habits and the real way you usually go about doing things.

James‘ has this, where the double loop is explicitly thought about. I’d push it a bit further so that it might not be more budget but how you could make/do things differently with the same budget (rarely do you have the opportunity as a solution of throwing more money at something). While James’ finds it broad (it sort of is, sort of isn’t I reckon), the heart of it is to realise that we all think we question (our assumptions, values, how we approach problems, and assume we are really creative), but the reality is that we actually use a small set of very regular behaviours and assumptions when we actually do stuff – particularly when we’re not sure of ourselves. Double loop learning begins from learning what our own specific habits are, so that we can become aware of them. The hard bit (and it is incredibly hard) is recognising them, as habits, by definition, aren’t things we notice in ourselves.

In James’ case, for instance, I think the easiest solution is to imagine more money, but that isn’t double loop learning since none of our habits are visible, they’re left unchallenged – can’t film what I want?, get more money so I can film what I want. It’s princess logic. That’s the habit to notice, and shift.

Finally, since it’s Sunday night and I think I’ve time to catch up on Monday, Alexandra recognises that model I matters because of anxieties about failure and not really wanting to admit not knowing. Of course we feel like this. We’re in an education system, and most have recently gone through an assessment regime, that is premised on explicit demonstrations of excellence and so we have a sad habit of hiding our mistakes. Or at least deciding since they’re mistakes they are not things we share. Only the excellent bits get shown around. Because, you know, all of us really only ever make perfect things all the time. I have never written a perfect essay. I think I have nearly 30 published. The last two subjects I’ve taught have been terrible (that’s not a good sign, is it?), and my last three or four conference presentations seriously misunderstood. I aspire to excellence, and also know you don’t see or get it without a lot of mistakes, errors, and not very good things as part of that.

That’s why we blog. It is open, communicative, informal, participative, collaborative, not assessed. It is thinking in words and things about stuff. It has to be articulate enough for others to follow along and not just notes that I decipher, by myself, some other day. Blogs can, sometimes, be engines of double looped learning. Youse can make misteaks here and, well at least a bit, get away with it, along the way to something better.