Marketing: Single Loop & Double Loop

This may seem like old-hat for many but visiting the basics of Systems Learning can be an excellent exercise, especially for someone that has not experienced it before. In the world of automation and big data, we have an abundance of information that we are acquiring. At a high level, it is more about what we see when we look at the data and as a result our interpretation of it. The use of data (information) is also very situational and thinking about it through the lens of single-loop and double-loop learning can be very useful in how to use the data.

Single loop learning is maintenance type learning. We try to get better at what we already know how to do. In sales, the classic example might be changing the words of a script, the time of day you are calling whereas double loop learning is asking if we are doing the right thing. Testing the assumptions such as does a call program actually work for example. I believe there is a time and place for each. In fact, I might even venture to say that in our typical meeting structure, single-loop learning should occur at the tactical level and double-loop is better used when strategic sessions are held.

single, double

The father of organizational learning, Chris Argyris, was interviewed in the book, How Organizations Learn , where I adapted this outline from describing using single loop and double loop learning.

Single Loop Theory in Use

Governing values held by users

  • Being control of situations
  • Strived to win and not to lose
  • Support negative feelings in self and others
  • Be as rational as possible

Action strategies

  • Advocates your position
  • Evaluate the thoughts and actions of others
  • Evaluate your own thoughts and actions
  • Attribute cause for whenever you’re trying to understand

Learning outcomes

  • Limited or inhibited
  • Consequences that encourage misunderstanding
  • Self-fueling error processes
  • Single-loop learning

Double Loop Theory in Use

Governing values held by users

  • Utilize valid information
  • Promote free and informed choice
  • Assume personal responsibility to monitor one’s effectiveness

Action strategies

  • Designed situations or environments where participants can be original and candy experience high personal causation (psychological success, confirmation, essentiality).
  • Protection of self is a joint enterprise and orientated toward growth (speak indirectly observable categories, seek to reduce blindness about own inconsistency and incongruity)
  • Protection of others is promoted bilaterally

Learning outcomes

  • Learning is facilitated
  • Persistent reduction of defensive organizational routines is facilitated
  • Double loop learning is generated

A footnote from the chart:

In double-loop learning, you detect and correct an error by first re-examining the underlying values. In single-loop, you just say, “Oh, something is wrong. Well, I’ll change my words or all change the subject.”

When do you use single-loop learning?

When do you use double-loop learning?

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