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Chris Argyris: Theories of Action, Double Looped Learning and Organisational Learning


For me, this reading was very long and complex. I think the points made were simple enough, but the writer kept jumping back and forth between the types/ models of learning. So, in a nut-shell, here is what I took away from it:

– People subconsciously follow a ‘mental map’ that they have planned out for themselves when acting in a situation.

– Theories-In-Use are evident when someone’s actions result in consequences that meet their initial intentions.

– Espoused-Theories are very formalised. It seeks the direct and obvious path to achieve intentional outcomes.

– Be not afraid of errors! As Adrain pointed out in the ‘Unlecture’, and as did my mother when I was growing up… its ok to make mistakes, you just have to try again. She also said I probably wont make the same mistake again, but that didn’t ring true when it came to not backing up my work from my USB… :S

– Single-Looped Learning is operationalised, not questioned; if it doesn’t work, troubleshoot the problem and if that fails contact someone who can fix it.

– Double-Looped Learning questions the variable and puts them under a critical analysis; look into why something isn’t working, try and fix the problem yourself.

Model One

-Governing Values: 1)Achieve the purpose as the actor defines it 2)Win, do not lose 3) Suppress negative feelings 4) Emphasise rationality

– Primary Strategies: 1) Control environment and task unilaterally 2) Protect self and others unilaterally

– Operationalised by: 1) Un-illustrated attributions and evaluations 2) Advocating courses of action which discourage inquiry 3) Treating ones’ own views as obviously correct 4) Face-saving moves such as leaving potentially embarrassing facts unstated

– Consequences: 1) Defensive relationships 2) Low freedom of choice 3) Reduced production of valid information 4) Little public testing of ideas

Model Two

– Governing Values: 1) Valid information 2) Free and informed choice 3) Internal commitment

– Strategies: 1) Sharing control 2) Participation in design and implementation of action

– Operationalised by: 1) Attribution and evaluation illustrated with relatively directly observable data 2) Surfacing conflict view 3) Encouraging public testing of evaluations

– Consequences: 1) Minimally defensive relationships 2) High freedom of choice 3) Increased likelihood of double-looped learning

I think currently, myself and many of my peers generally follow Model One, but what we should be aiming for is Model Two. I feel like I really should have read this before writing my first blog on the ‘Unlecture’ because I think it conveys perfectly what I was trying to explain about coming up with my own ideas, not just taking the expected and easiest route and turning x into something better.


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“Chris Argyris: Theories of Action, Double Looped Learning and Organisational Learning”


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