Chris Argyris
1923 - 2013

Widely regarded as the father of organizational learning; highly influential business theorist. 


Ranked #48 in 2007.

Previous positions:

#28 (2005), #18 (2003), #26 (2001). 


“Success in the marketplace increasingly depends on learning, yet most people don’t know how to learn.”

– Chris Argyris


“What’s more, those members of the organization that many assume to be the best at learning are, in fact, not very good at it.” 

– Chris Argyris


Argyris’ early work concentrated on the then highly innovative field of behavioural science. He explored the impact of formal organizational structures, control systems, and the management of individuals and argued that organizations depend fundamentally on people and that personal development is – and can be – related to work. 

Drawn to the kinds of problems that most analytical people eschew, Argyris examined learning processes in huge depth and his most influential work was carried out with Donald Schön when they developed the theory of single-loop learning and double-loop learning. Argyris also worked with Peter Senge to develop the “ladder inference,” a powerful tool for decision making.


Argyris was brought up in the New York suburbs and spent time in Greece with his grandparents. Prior to joining Harvard he was at Yale where he was a professor of administrative science. His qualifications embraced psychology, economics, and organizational behaviour. He became the James Bryant Conant Professor of Education and Organizational Behaviour at Harvard Business School in 1971 and was active as director of the Monitor consulting firm.


Argyris authored over 30 books and 150 articles, including: Personality and Organization (Harper & Row, 1957); Integrating the Individual and the Organization (John Wiley & Sons, 1964); Interpersonal Competence and Organizational Effectiveness (Tavistock, 1962); Organization and Innovation (RD Irwin, 1965); Intervention Theory and Method (Addison Wesley, 1970); Inner Contradictions of Rigorous Research (Academic Press, 1980); Action Science (with Robert Putnam and Diana McLain Smith, Jossey-Bass 1985); Theory in Practice (with Donald Schön, Jossey-Bass, 1974); Organizational Learning (with Donald Schön, Wiley-Blackwell, 1978); and Organizational Learning II (Addison Wesley 1996). 


Media picks


“Argyris was a formidable thinker – even by the lofty standards of his employer, Harvard Business School.”

Stuart Crainer & Des Dearlove, Thinkers50

Pioneer and champion of psychological safety, studies people, projects and organizations to uncover the secrets of successful teaming.

Subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date with the latest and greatest ideas in business, management, and thought leadership.

*mandatory field

Thinkers50 will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide news, updates, and marketing. Please confirm that you agree to have us contact you by clicking below:

You can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or by contacting us at . We will treat your information with respect. For more information about our privacy practices please visit our website. By clicking below, you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.

Thinkers50 Awards Gala 2023

Join us in celebration of the best in business and management thinking.