Peter Senge is the thought leader and key protagonist on the topic of the learning organisation.
The basic rationale for such organisations is that in situations of rapid change only those that are flexible, adaptive and productive will excel. For this to happen, it is argued, organisations need to ‘discover how to tap people’s commitment and capacity to learn at all levels’ (ibid.: 4).
Many organisations in what have been called high velocity markets have to be able to adapt and change to the conditions in that market. Competitive advantage is sustained if the organisation can change and adapt, to exhibit dynamic capabilities (DCT).
While all people have the capacity to learn, the structures in which they have to function are often not conducive to reflection and engagement. Furthermore, people may lack the tools and guiding ideas to make sense of the situations they face. Organisations that are continually expanding their capacity to create their future require a fundamental shift of mind among their members.
When you ask people about what it is like being part of a great team, what is most striking is the meaningfulness of the experience. People talk about being part of something larger than themselves, of being connected, of being generative. It become quite clear that, for many, their experiences as part of truly great teams stand out as singular periods of life lived to the fullest. Some spend the rest of their lives looking for ways to recapture that spirit. (Senge 1990, p13)
For Peter Senge, real learning gets to the heart of what it is to be human. We become able to re-create ourselves. This applies to both individuals and organisations. Thus, for a ‘learning organisation it is not enough to survive. ‘”Survival learning” or what is more often termed “adaptive learning” is important – indeed it is necessary. But for a learning organisation, “adaptive learning” must be joined by “generative learning”, learning that enhances our capacity to create’ (Senge 1990, p4).
The dimension that distinguishes learning from more traditional organisations is the mastery of certain basic disciplines or ‘component technologies’. The five that Peter Senge identifies are said to be converging to innovate learning organisations.
- Systems thinking
- Personal mastery
- Mental models
- Building shared vision
- Team learning
See what he says here: