How do we learn when it’s all so complex?

profileLearning by not getting stuck in a loop

Learning both in individuals and organisations is often undervalued and not fully acted upon because we don’t take the time to work through all the learning loops

Firstly lets look at the questions we ask ourselves.

Single-Loop Learning

Are we doing the right things? This is the single loop where we compare actions to results. Single-loop learning assumes that problems and their solutions are close to each other in time and space .  We are primarily considering our actions. The small changes that are made to specific practices or behaviors, based on what has or has not worked in the past. this is where we do things better without necessarily examining or challenging our own underlying beliefs and assumptions. The goal is about improvements and fixes that often take the form of procedures or rules.

Are we doing things right? (procedures or rules)

Double-Loop Learning

Double-loop learning leads to insights about why a solution works. In this form of learning, we are considering our actions and our assumptions. This is  where people become observers of themselves, asking, “What is going on here? What are the patterns?” We need this insight to understand the pattern. this level of learning will help us to change the way we make decisions and deepen understanding of our assumptions. Double-loop learning works with major changes, like redesigning an organisational structure.

Are we doing the right things? (insights and patterns).

Triple-Loop Learning

Triple-loop learning involves principles.  The learning goes beyond insight and patterns to context. The result creates a shift in understanding our context or point of view. We produce new commitments and ways of learning. This form of learning challenges us to understand how problems and solutions are related. It also challenges us to understand how our previous actions created the conditions that led to our current problems. The relationship between organisational structure and behavior is fundamentally changed because the organisation learns how to learn.  The results of this learning includes enhancing ways to comprehend and change our purpose, developing better understanding of how to respond to our environment, and deepening our comprehension of why we chose to do things we do.

How do we decide what is right? (principles).

Double and Triple-Loop Learning are essential

Organisations and lives are becoming ever more complex and with complexity comes indecision and reduced decision making.

When the levels of complexity in our work and the issues we are working with are high, it becomes more critical for us to be able to also use double- and triple-loop learning to:

  • succeed in new contexts,situations that we might not have experienced before
  • make learning an integral activity to our work and lives by reflecting more and
  • ultimately to achieve results that are appropriate to the context and principles.

Often solutions are adopted that are merely different forms of sticking plaster and as we all know the plaster some picks off.The future is becoming evermore unfamiliar and unpredictable. Solutions cannot be calculated in advance based on what has worked in the past. Emergent solutions have to worked out as situations unfold.(through exploration and realisation)

I have incorporated the single, double and triple loop learning approach to help clients and organisation gain the most from the coaching and mentoring programme and to ensure that we all avoid getting stuck in a loop.

Asking the right questions, helps to move people through the loops and gain deeper more fundamental forms of learning, its where coaching can create the space and opportunity for real changes to be undertaken. So if learning is the key, coaching is the hand that helps the key unlock insights and different thinking.