Wednesday, December 13, 2017
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An Introduction

The focus of Chris Argyris work is learning. His seminal contribution to the field being Double Loop Learning, in which it becomes clear that for good reasons people can act against their own best interests. Or in corporate life, develop a sound strategic direction, which cannot be implemented due to defensive routines.

How does this occur? Well, an intellectually sound argument is usually not enough to ensure acceptance or active support. To implement change, it is necessary to engage with others who may have equally sound intellectual arguments. If dealing with other views is experienced as - or even imagined to be- threatening or embarrassing, patterns of personal or cultural behaviour (defensive routines) can become active and result in self-limiting or self-defeating behaviour. If such behaviour is the product of defensive reasoning, then it is likely that we will blame others for the problem whilst being unaware of our own part in creating the problem. Moreover as Chris has shown many times, in order to maintain our blaming stance, we are likely to be unaware of our own unawareness.

The route to effective leadership is to understand the potential destruction of value occasioned by these self-limiting aspects of being human, and to find ways of working through them to productive outcomes. This necessitates inviting feedback, and within the context of Chris?s approach identifying a specific 'live' example of an issue faced within an organisation. People then write case studies, which illustrate their strategy for dealing with that issue.

This approach allows people to benefit from multiple perspectives. Case studies are a rare opportunity for individuals to take personal responsibility for their own learning and development (in the context of dealing with a business issue). Many people sincerely seek to contribute their best to strategy, business process, continuous improvement and work efficiency, yet run foul of their own defensiveness and that of others.

Either we seek to surface our own self-limiting behaviour in order to change the way we contribute, or we can stay part of the very problem that we generally blame others for.

Empathy alone will not achieve this change. Working constructively with feedback might. Double Loop Learning allows us to generate and process feedback to create insight, and informed choice about how we deal with the issues that we face. Thus making it more likely that we achieve the results we say we want.

We are professionally indebted to Chris for his teaching and support. The need for Double Loop Learning has never been greater within business and international affairs. As we head towards even greater challenges to human kind, we need the tools to find good solutions for all. Double Loop Learning is one such set of tools.