GLI Blog

Triple-Loop Learning is a leadership strategy for strategy profound change

Mon, Jan 28, 2019 5:00 PM GMT

It enhances individual beneficiation and deep innovation.  Change is the only certainty.  Change is beneficial rather than a problem.  With Triple-Loop Learning as foundation we can understand the underlying reasons why we need change and how to decide what are the right things to do and why this is right.

Watch Our Video on Triple Loop Learning

Triple-Loop learning uses three strategies, being: Single-Loop Learning, Double-Loop Learning and finally, Triple-Loop Learning.  There is not necessarily a natural progression between the three strategies of learning.  The three Loops of learning can be used separately.  It adds much more value if all three strategies are understood and applied.

Leadership as learning requires us to think about what needs to be known and what needs to be done. This is analysis and action.  Triple-Loop Learning is an excellent strategy for learning leadership and leadership as learning.


Triple Loop-Learning starts with observing the outcomes or results of a current challenge with which we are confronted.  Gender-based discrimination which is a complex problem is an example of a complex problem for which there are no easy answers.

Using Single-Loop Learning we suppose the problem of gender-based discrimination and the solutions for it are close in time and space.  If too few women are in senior management positions it is assumed that a quota system can solve this problem to ensure an equal number of women and men in senior management positions.  This is also the option followed in South African institutions without total success.  The focus of Single-Loop Learning is to create and follow rules and regulations to deal with problems.  The question becomes: “Are we doing things right according to the regulations?’  If the regulations do not deliver the necessary outcomes, we replace it with other and more regulations irrespective of the reasons why the current regulation is not working.

Double-Loop Learning asks the question: “What is the right thing to do?”  Our assumptions and thinking about the problem is questioned.  The development of insight into the problem of gender-based discrimination and finding underlying patterns are important.  Some of the current assumptions popularly held on gender-based discrimination are, for example that men are providers and women are caregivers.  An erroneous assumption often emphasized here is that money and the management thereof, which is presumed to be mainly a male role, is more important than providing care, which is presumed to be a female role.

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Triple-Loop Learning asks questions, such as: “How do we decide what is right?” and “Why do we do what we do?” The emphasis is on context, underlying principles and systems thinking.  Gender-based discrimination is placed within a context where gender determines your treatment, the dominant culture is patriarchy and there is support from a cult of femininity.  In Triple Loop Learning these deep systems imbedded issues are interrogated, analysed and acted upon.

As part of the GLi leadership initiative we invite people interested in leadership to join us in South Africa to develop leadership as learning through interactive workshops.  One of the strategies used here is Triple-Loop Learning for profound change, individual cultivation and radical innovation using the complex problem of gender-based discrimination as one of many which can be the focus of a leadership course in South Africa.


"Everybody is unique and has the potential to develop and be the best he or she can be. Life is complex and learning never stops. Knowing yourself is a lifelong, exciting journey which should not be traveled alone."
"Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others."

Jack Welch

©2019 Global Leadership Initiatives.

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