Simon Terry

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The Double Loop Learning of Working Out Loud

Today I presented a case study at Learning Assembly Australia (#learnaus) on my personal practice of working out loud.  Like many such presentations, we were soon discussing the value of working out loud on the practice of working out loud. We needed the help of my #wolweek colleague, Jonathan Anthony, the master of meta when it comes to working out loud

However, there is an important reason working out loud commonly creates this experience. Working out loud fosters double loop learning.

The Double Loop

The concept of double loop learning is expounded in Chris Argyris’ classic article ’Teaching Smart People How to Learn’. Argyris contrast double loop learning with the single loop of every day problem solving.  He expresses double loop learning this way:

if learning is to persist, managers and employees must also look inward. They need to reflect critically on their own behavior, identify the ways they often inadvertently contribute to the organization’s problems, and then change how they act. In particular, they must learn how the very way they go about defining and solving problems can be a source of problems in its own right.

Working Out Loud Facilitates Double Loop Learning

When you narrate work in progress and do so visibly, you expose to others the single loop in process. Suddenly your behaviours, context, assumptions and approaches are open for review.  When you begin to answer questions or respond to suggestions of others on your work, you are prompted to reflect on the approach you have chosen. This process of reflection on how you are working opens up double loop learning.

Many people discover the presence of others is not even required for double loop learning to occur.  The process of getting your work visible and shareable can help you to realise new and better ways of achieving your goals. This process can also cause you to reflect on your role in the wider system with whom you are about to share your work. There is nothing quite like the challenge of expressing your thoughts to straighten out your thinking.

The power of double loop learning is that it can help realise breakthrough change in your personal effectiveness. By clearing the blockages, assumptions and other constraints that you have imposed on yourself, your work effectiveness increases. New avenues for learning open up.  Importantly, learning accelerates because the work & the reflection accelerate.  The faster you move around both single and double learning loops the greater the progress towards mastery.

Working Out Loud is a reflective practice. Use it to develop your double loop learning. Working Out Loud is a practice to help ‘learn how to learn’.


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