Double loop learning in organizations

Annotation for Double loop learning in organizations

Argyris C.. 1977. Double loop learning in organizations. Harvard Business Review. September-October


Describes the opportunities and barriers to double loop learning in an organisational setting.

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Double loop learning requires that underlying assumptions, norms, and objectives are open to confrontation. It also requires an opposition of ideas for comparison. This is facilitated by a culture of open communication within an organisation. This article makes the interesting observation that dilemmas and paradoxes are much more likely to occur in systems that are older and more successful given that deep-seated issues have long been buried during the early stages of development. The dilemmas and paradoxes associated with power and hierarchical management structures are significant in this regard, and are a primary limiting factor for deeper, reflexive learning.


Double loop learning is a process of detecting and correcting error. However, as this article points out, errors can be deeply embedded within established systems, and often held strongly in place through existing power structures. For effective double loop learning to occur at the organisational level, or at broader scales, there is a need for those in positions of power to recognise and understand the worth of this form of learning. This is a significant limiting condition for adaptive learning frameworks and processes, and highlights the need for openness and support from the highest levels of hierarchical systems. The emergence of polycentric governance systems, or flattened management structures, as an alternative to traditional hierarchical systems is also an important area of research for adaptive learning.