The Fifth Discipline
The Learning Organization
Peter Senge described the learning organization of the future in his new book,
The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. He
wrote, learning organizations are; "...organizations where people continually
expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and
expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set
free, and where people are continually learning how to learn together."
Senge makes a case for systems thinking as the discipline we all must learn in order to have a better understanding of our complex world. Systems thinking can provide a new "window on the world"_one we should develop. Senge writes; "from a very early age, we are taught to break apart problems, to fragment the world. This apparently makes complex tasks and subjects more manageable, but we pay a hidden, enormous price. We can no longer see the consequences of our actions; we lose our intrinsic sense of connection to a larger whole."
On the other hand: "Systems thinking is a conceptual framework, a body of knowledge and tools that has been developed over the past fifty years, to make the full patterns clearer, and to help us see how to change them effectively."
Senge writes about systems tools and concepts that most of us have never been asked to learn. These tools and concepts result in a "shift of the mind" from seeing linear, simple cause and effect relationships among component parts, to seeing complex interrelationships of the whole. Problems and opportunities are actually parts of complex systems. To fully explore opportunities or improve problematic situations, we have to understand underlying causes. This requires an ability to "see" the key relationships within a system. An example of a systems science which helps us understand the complexity within agricultural systems and the relationship among agricultural, natural, and human ecosystems is agricultural systems ecology (agroecology).
Systems thinking allows us to see double feedback loops, which are often the underlying causes of our greatest problems. The learning organization of the future will help us all to see that we are often the cause of our own problems. For example, our desire for inexpensive food, results in a lesser quality environment. Our pursuit of private dollars to maintain our public universities, results in a lack of public trust. Our own accountability structure, particularly for tenured faculty, has led us to undervalue our basic mission of serving the public good. These are not simple, straightforward causes and effects, but the result of complex interrelationships.
People who have learned to "see" relationships within complex systems will be able to lead the learning organization of the future. Leaders who attempt to push organizational change often find themselves faced with resistance that comes from people in the system trying to maintain some cultural value. Often these values are implicit and therefore hidden. Leaders must be able help people examine their own personal and organizational assumptions, and focus on improvement of situations. This is not a simple task.
The answer lies in a leader's profound commitment to learning. The answer lies in trust and dialogue and openness within the organization. The answer lies at being able to face your fears as individuals and as an organization.
The leaders of the learning organization are responsible for building organizations where people continually expand their capacity to understand complexity, clarify vision, and act according to their new understanding. The leaders of the learning organization are responsible for continued learning, which is the basis of organizational rebirth. I suggest that an appropriate vision for our organization is one of continual rebirth through lifelong individual and organizational learning.
Creating a new vision for the organization is the beginning of the change process. We can learn to let go of the past, by focusing on the future. An institutional vision that is widely shared will give the system a clear sense of purpose. It will allow individuals to find their own place in the organization, thus providing a sense of personal security. This will result in an environment in which constant change in response to a changing world becomes possible.
Systems thinking helps us to understand that we are the ultimate cause of our own problems. We can change the world, by changing our own vision of our world. We cannot blame others or the "system" for our inability to change things that are not right.
相关阅读：第五项修炼读后感 The Fifth Discipline Quotes
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