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Double loop learning is powerful. It lifts our eyes one level. From focusing on what we did — can we tweak the approach? — to why we did it: how are we thinking about this issue?
It’s the difference between firefighters getting better and better at saving people from burning builds — to thinking about how to prevent fires in the first place.
And triple loop learning is even more interesting; learning about our identity, about why we make the assumptions we do about our role in any given situation. Firefighters changing from a focus on heroism, machismo, to a focus on collaboration and education.
Double and triple mean slightly different things in different theories and presentations, but don’t get too hung up on the distinctions.
The point is to think wider — to play on a bigger stage. How?
First, build a practice.
When you hold retrospectives, lessons learned sessions, or after-action reviews, ask these questions:
· what could we have done differently?
· how could we have thought about the work/problem/situation differently?
· how could we have thought about our role, purpose, identify differently here?
Play the ‘of course I…’ game
When giving a debrief, report-back, or review of what you’ve done, first explain and defend and so on as you normally would.
Then, go back over what you’ve said and add ‘of course I…’ to each perspective.
· ‘Of course I’d come up with a legal issue, I’m a trained lawyer’
· ‘Of course I saw the confrontation as a problem, I hate confrontation’
· ‘Of course I had to change things, I’m a consultant!’
You don’t have to work at this — just state the obvious.
Then take a step back, and look at your ‘of courses’ — the way you’ve explained your actions. How might you have been different in those moments?
Have you got an example of a time when you’ve learned — not just to do something differently, but to revise your assumptions?