Implementing Double Loop Learning For Conference Improvement

Great American Scream Machine in the evening

Most professionals, like you, are really good at single loop learning.

We have a mental map that we use for conference improvement. We follow standard, prescribed routines to solve typical conference problems. That’s single loop learning. (BTW, single and double loop learning applies to any type of organizational improvement. I’m applying it to conference improvements.)

Ironically, if you’re very good at single loop learning, you’re probably bad at double or triple loop learning. It’s only when we implement double and triple loop learning that we can create unique competitive advantages. And transformation.

Defining Single Loop Learning

Single loop learning is the most basic form of learning. It is incremental learning with small steps toward behavior changes.

Single loop learning describes what happens when the goal is to fix a problem.

In conference environments, we typically try to fix marketing to increase attendance. Or we try to fix the online ecommerce registration process. Or we try to fix room sets so that more people can attend a session.

The goal of single loop learning is to fix a system or process so that it functions better. It’s usually about being more efficient.

The Challenge With Single Loop Learning

Those of us that have mastered meeting logistics are very good at single loop learning. We are good at applying solutions to real-world conference problems.

Single loop learning does not attempt to alter the structure of the system. So changes that occur from single loop learning rarely lead to improvements in the attendees’ conference experience.

Ironically, becoming a master at solving standard conference problems is a barrier to double and triple loop learning. And that means it becomes a barrier to major conference advancements.

Why is single loop learning a barrier to major conference improvement?

Well, our brains may go into automation at solving problems we’ve encountered many times. We revert to what we’ve always done. We rarely spend time thinking and reflecting about it. We just react with past behaviors.

Even further, our single loop learning strategy may actual frame the problem incorrectly. Or we may be asking the wrong questions. Or we are focused on improving logistics instead of improving the overall experience or effectiveness.

Double Loop Learning

Double loop learning reframes the situation.

It reframes the problem and the questions used to identify and solve the problem. We start looking at conceptual frameworks, beliefs, perceptions, values and out goals.

It usually starts by questioning the purpose and function of the work currently being done. It does not look for a more efficient way to complete them.

Re-evaluating and reframing our goals, values and beliefs is a more complex way of processing information. It involves a more sophisticated way of reviewing, researching and assessing the overall conference experience. It requires a new set of skills, often outside of our current experience.

Double loop learning requires cognitive reasoning and reflection. It is our cognitive reasoning that results in our actions. You can’t use a quick meeting formula to resolve double loop learning strategy.

Hat tips to Chris Argyris and Donal Schon who developed the single, double and triple loop organizational learning theory.

Up next: Triple Loop Learning, The Defensive Doom Loop And Conference Transformation.

What are some conference questions we should ask that reframe our conference thinking and problems? How can we become conference organizers that regularly use reflection and deep thinking for improvement?

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