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Learning in a Double Loop: The Strategic Transformation of Al-Qaeda


Journal abstract
Like any type of organization, terrorist groups learn from their own experiences as well as those of others. These processes of organizational learning have, however, been poorly understood so far, especially regarding deep strategic changes. In this Research Note, we apply a concept developed to understand learning of business organizations to recent transformations of jihadist groups. The question we want to shed light on using this approach is whether, and in which ways, terrorist groups are able to question not only their immediate modus operandi, but also the fundamental assumptions their struggle is built on. More specifically, we focus the inquiry on the development of the Al-Qaeda network. Despite its acknowledged penchant for learning, the ability of the jihadists to transform on a deeper level has often been denied. We seek to reassess these claims from the perspective of a double-loop learning approach by tracing the strategic evolution of Al-Qaeda and its eventual breakaway faction, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).

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