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The library of essays of Proakatemia

The fifth discipline



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The fifth discipline

 

My latest read, The fifth discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization, is a book by Peter Senge who is a senior lecturer at MIT. Honestly, I had difficulties to grasp on ideas and absorb everything that was covered in it. I found many similar ideas that I have read in other books or articles that addresses company culture and learning organizations. This might have an effect on assessing what I learned and what you can see in this essay. In this essay I will go through only few parts of the fifth discipline and I feel like I am not able to go through my own ideas fluently, because there is a lot. I suggest you to read the book and you will hopefully understand me.

One thing that I feel like was not delivered in the book is how to create a learning organization which left me a bit wondering. Nevertheless, it is a great read and covers impressively the five disciplines.

 

The five disciplines of what the book refers to as a “learning organization” discussed in the book are:

  • Personal mastery is a discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively.

 

  • Mental models are deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, or even pictures of images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action.

 

  • Building shared vision – a practice of unearthing shared pictures of the future that foster genuine commitment and enrollment rather than compliance.

 

  • Team learning starts with dialogue, the capacity of members of a team to suspend assumptions and enter into genuine thinking together.

 

  • Systems thinking – The Fifth Discipline that integrates the other four.

The law of unintended consequences. This is one of the three keys to system thinking according to Singe, other two are reinforcing loops, and balancing loops. I was stuck on the system thinking In a nutshell this, first, means the effect of a single decision or action made on a singular part of a system which still has more than a specific effect. Most people are one-dimensioned- and effect type of thinkers and I am afraid that I am also. It is frightening because I feel like it is impossible and inefficient trying to foresee every unintended consequence. The information can be incomplete and the requirements may be changing in a fast pace and it is difficult to keep up. Today many of our problems are far too complex to understand and in their nature, is that they cannot be identified on time. Nevertheless, it is good thing to go for the optimal solution for the big picture rather than focusing on the fractions one at a time.

Reinforcing loops are something that I understand as and learned skills and intellectual properties that helps you solve problems and do tasks faster and more efficiently in the future. It is like writing essays; once you have read a ton of literature and written dozens of essays you will find the next ones easier for you, you gain sort of a momentum in your doing. I am not sure where is my personal momentum, yet. In my opinion reinforced loops often work in larger system, like in teams. These reinforcing loops develop and can slowly change and be driven by belief and choice, for example. Since they are depending on personal interests, or company values, they have both the ability to accelerate and decelerate actions and I can relate to both side based on my own experience.

“A balancing loop attempts to move some current state (the way things are) to a desired state (goal or objective) though some action (whatever is done to reach the goal.” (systems-thonking.org)

“A balancing loop is representative of any situation where there is a goal or an objective and action is taken to achieve that goal or objective. If I decide I want to increase sales by 10% I’ve just created a balancing loop. If I decide to develop a new product I’ve just created a balancing loop. The instances of this structure are numerous.” (systems-thinking.org) For me this whole system thinking is maybe a bit complex concept at the moment so I might need to give the book another go, because there is a lot about this concept.

 

Something I want to share from the book is a quote that for me has been sort of a dream form of a company that I would like to work in, or even more I would like to establish a company that works like this: “A learning organization is a place where people are continually discovering how they create their reality.”

In an organization that learning of individuals is recognized should definitely be the future of organizations. Today management is prevailing and extinguishes our natural intrinsic motivation, which is many times called to be ‘imagination that children have’. It is the loss of curiosity and joy of learning that we are experiencing. I see that the current schooling system and managing people as assets has features which are corrupting our ability and motivation to create our own reality.

I would like to know how to challenge our emerging generations to build learning organizations, places where people would be able to find again the joy of learning and curiosity.

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