Nov 21 / Arvid Madland Lyngnes

Embracing Change Through Double-Loop Learning: A Deep Dive into Organizational Adaptability


In an ever-evolving business landscape, the ability to adapt and learn is not just an asset but a necessity. Chris Argyris and Donald Schön's concept of double-loop learning presents a paradigm shift in our understanding of learning and adaptation in organizational contexts. This article delves into the depths of double-loop learning, contrasting it with single-loop learning, and explores its profound implications for both individuals and organizations.

The Essence of Double-Loop Learning

Double-loop learning is a concept that goes beyond conventional problem-solving. While single-loop learning involves making adjustments within existing frameworks and norms to correct errors, double-loop learning challenges and changes these very frameworks and norms themselves. It's about questioning the fundamental assumptions, values, and policies that underlie actions and strategies.

Contrast with Single-Loop Learning

Single-loop learning is akin to a thermostat automatically adjusting the heating to maintain a set temperature. It's about efficiency within established parameters. Double-loop learning, however, questions the set temperature itself - why is it set at this level? Could a different setting be more effective or efficient? This questioning leads to a more profound understanding and more innovative solutions.

Applications in the Real World

In a business environment, single-loop learning might manifest as improving sales tactics within the current market strategy. Double-loop learning, conversely, would reassess the market strategy itself. On a personal level, while single-loop learning focuses on improving skills for a current role, double-loop learning questions if the role aligns with one's values and career aspirations.

The Benefits and Challenges

Double-loop learning fosters adaptability and innovation. It encourages not just fixing problems but rethinking the problem itself. However, implementing it often requires a significant cultural shift, with challenges including confronting and changing long-held beliefs and norms.

Cultivating an Environment for Double-Loop Learning

Creating a conducive environment is crucial. This environment should encourage open communication, feedback, and critical thinking. Leadership plays a pivotal role in modeling the willingness to question foundational assumptions and values. Regular reflective practices and a culture that values continuous learning as an ongoing process, not just as a response to problems, also support this learning paradigm.


Double-loop learning is not just about finding better solutions; it's about redefining the problems and our understanding of them. It is a powerful tool for achieving meaningful and sustainable change and development in both organizational and personal contexts. In a world where change is the only constant, double-loop learning stands as a beacon for those aspiring to not just adapt but thrive.

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