Double Loop Learning

Double Loop Learning
Double Loop Learning

Double Loop Learning

This is probably my favourite model that has roots in organisational behaviour and psychology.

The Single Loop
The first loop involves formulating a strategy, actioning/executing it, and then doing the same provided outcomes from the first iteration of the loop. Note: outcomes might be intended or unintended and can impact the person in the loop or people outside of the loop.

The worst case scenario here is that the same action is repeated over and over and over – producing undesirable outcomes just as many times over.

The Double Loop
The second loop involves a governing variable; a control introduced for observation. The control is then used to adjust the actions and strategies to produce more intended outcomes – or outcomes that match your variable.

To illustrate:
It’s your wife’s birthday.


  1. Buy her a gift
  2. Buy her an expensive gift
  3. Buy her a cheap gift
  4. Don’t buy her a gift
  5. Eat a cookie

Consequences of each strategy:

  1. Happy.
  2. Very happy, but your dog’s hip operation has to wait.
  3. It’s the thought that counts, and the couch is waiting.
  4. Have you met the couch yet?
  5. Happy. She might not be … but you definitely are!

At this point you’re in a single learning loop. A double learning loop would introduce controls, or variables, or values.


  • You love your wife, and hate the couch.
  • The dog played a major role in getting you two together.
  • You promised you’d take her on a romantic trip on your next anniversary.
  • She hates celebrating her birthday because it makes her feel old(er)

You’ll quickly see that introducing controls and matching them with the consequences will almost indisputably change your actions. If you see this, you see the double learning loop.

This model is from The Decision Book. Please make sure to visit 50 Top Models – the author’s website. If you like what you see, buy the book! Support the author and awesome content.

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