Triple Loop Learning, The Loop Of Doom And Conference Transformation

doom to death

Are you really, really good at what you do?

Sure you are. You’ve probably mastered your discipline and expertise. You may even be one of the best conference organizers in the world.

Meetings And Conference Success

Those meeting professionals that are almost always successful at their work rarely experience failure.

And those that have rarely failed have never really had to learn from their own mistakes or their unsuccess.

So whenever their single loop learning strategies no longer work, they may become defensive, overly critical, and place blame on others instead of their own selves.

Yeah, you may even know some planners like that. Or maybe even you have felt that way.

Double Loop Learning And The Loop Of Defensive Doom

Some master conference organizers become defensive when others start using double loop learning to improve their conferences.

Remember double loop learning is using our cognitive rules for how we design and apply our actions. These rules become a blueprint or master program in our brain for how we think. It becomes a default action.

When an organization looks at creating a new structure for conference planning,
…or reframing of the event,
…or asking new questions,
…or a wanting to focus on effectiveness,
a meeting planners’ commitment to the way it’s always been done can result in a stalemate. Their emotional response actually blocks their ability to learn and think in new ways.

When we reframe the problem, we can’t depend upon our past experiences to solve it. It’s a new challenge with different expectations.

That unknown uneasiness of being unable to rely on past experience may stir our emotions. We may feel fear of failure, defensiveness, embarrassment, guilt or even apathy.

Unfortunately, our emotional reaction can actually cause a stalemate. It’s similar to a computer virus that can produce the exact opposite result than the software designer originally planned.

We become part of the problem instead of leading to a solution. We get stuck in the loop of doom.

Triple Loop Learning Leads To Conference Transformation

So how do we resolve our loop of doom?

How do we move beyond becoming defensive to new, unique and strange questions?

We need to embrace triple loop learning.

Triple loop learning moves beyond questioning our work processes and the foundation for our tasks. It requires a deeper assessment of the situation, our strategies and our behaviors. It evaluates our own goals and beliefs as well as the people we interact with. And triple loop learning is a wonderful bridge to understanding our customers.

When conference organizers think about their attitudes, actions and patterns of behavior and can do so without having an emotional hijack, then they can break down the defenses that block learning new strategies. Teaching conference planning teams how and why they react in specific ways as well as how to react in more effective ways leads to transformation.

In short, we have to move beyond just thinking about formulas, room sets and food and beverage BEOs. We have to start thinking about new types of questions, new conference design strategies and deeper assessments. We’ve got to start thinking about how to create attendee transformation.

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

What are some things you’ve learned after several years of planning conferences that never occurred to you when you first started planning events or meetings? What do you need to create a safe environment for deeper conference assessments including those of your strategies and behaviors?

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