Two Thinkers Walk Into A Bar…

Have you guys ever heard of double-loop or single-loop thinking before? Okay, so…straight up: I have not. Until now. I’m trying to get a handle on it. Wanna help? Okay, here we go:

From what I can gather, double loop learning is a type of trial and error, action-based strategy focused on solving problems. Critical thinking seems to be more broad. Creative thinking seems to relate to innovation.

Example – two problem solvers walk into a bar:

First problem solver faces a problem they’ve seen before. They solve it based on experience and a set of “rules.” This is single-loop thinking.

Second problem-solver faces same problem with different variables. The solver tries to use single-loop thinking with the rules to solve the problem. It doesn’t work, so they draw on experience to tweak things again and again. Maybe the problem is never solved. Maybe it is.

At just the right moment, a critical thinker walks in and starts asking questions about the rules and the process as a whole. They even ask other people in the bar what they might have noticed about the problem. The critical thinker breaks the problems into teeny parts and looks at all the variables around the problem. There are even unnoticed variables that are discovered as a result. Then the critical thinker pokes at the underbelly of the problem. Problem is solved, but in a way that the first two never thought possible.

The creative thinker walks into the bar and dreams up a new problem that has an even better solution. They add jimbobs and doodads to the problem and it becomes a beautiful puzzle that involves a new game and new rules.

That’s my understanding of the different types of thinking we’re talking about here. What do you think?

Pereda, A. R. (2012). Single-Loop and Double-Loop Learning Model. Retrieved June 18, 2016, from


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