L15- Double-Loop Learning

Indigo learning (the overall topic of this L Series of blogs) is team learning or group learning, and group learning can best proceed if each member of the group practices double-loop learning.

The essence of double-loop learning is simple: the knowledge worker asks why she does what she keeps doing. While single-loop learning only changes ineffective behavior, double-loop learning also changes the internal and external reasons behind the ineffective behavior. It entails acknowledging that her actions are ineffective, and discovering external reasons (which she may or may not be able to change) and especially internal reasons (causes within herself, which she CAN change) behind her ineffective action. In double-loop learning, the knowledge worker takes responsibility in changing those internal reasons as far as she can. It requires practice in self-observation and reflection. It requires watching for any internal patterns of thinking that may be the reason behind an ineffective behavior.

In other words, double-loop learning means installing a feedback loop within youself. It starts with a personal decision to self-improve and to keep learning. It means practicing the habit of learning about yourself.

Yesterday, I practiced a technique of self-observation I would like to share with you.

I was interviewing Indonesians and I obtained their permission to record the interview (I use MP3). The audio record is useful for ensuring accuracy of quotations and capturing nuances of answers (better than the notes I take). The MP3 audio record is also a good tool to listen to myself and review how I speak and interact with my interviewees.

When I listened to the audio recording of my interview I observed many things about my manner of speaking that I was not aware of during the interview:

  • I speak too fast. The Indonesians need to hear the English words clearly and more slowly.
  • I tend to finish their sentence. I realize this is a discourteous habit of mine that shows up when someone is pausing too long or groping for words to express what they are thinking.
  • I tend to paraphrase after someone says something long and rambling or unclear. What I should have done is to convert my paraphrasing into a question, “Do you mean to say that…?”

Its amazing to discover something you keep doing that you were never aware of!

For more on double-loop learning, you can check these two past blog posts:
“D17- Single-Loop Learning versus Double-Loop Learning”
“Practice Internal Double-Loop Learning”

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