Peter Senge: The Dynamics of Change and Sustainability

By Gary, Loren | New Zealand Management, September 2005 | Go to article overview

Peter Senge: The Dynamics of Change and Sustainability


Gary, Loren, New Zealand Management


Peter Senge has received worldwide acclaim for his work in translating the abstract ideas of systems theory into tools for understanding economic and organisational change.

Named in 1999 by the Journal of Business Strategy as one of the 24 people who have had the greatest influence on business strategy over the prior 100 years, Senge is a senior lecturer at the Massachusetts institute of Technology. He is also chair of the Society of Organisational Learning (SOL), a global community of corporations that he helped found in 1997.

He is co-author of The Dance of Change: The Challenges to Sustaining Momentum in Learning Organizations.

In 1997, Harvard Business Review cited his book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization as one of the seminal management books of the past 75 years.

Senge talks with Loren Gary about the disciplines that help create a genuine learning organisation and how they come into play in his work around environmental sustainability issues.

In The Fifth Discipline, you write about the component technologies or learning disciplines that combine to create learning organisations. You group these disciplines into three broad areas; the first is the capacity for aspiration. Please explain what that is. It has to do with what motivates change. It's very common for people to think that real change only occurs if there's a crisis. That's another way of saying that people have not developed a capacity to change because they see opportunities for real innovation even before somebody has a gun to their head. When an organisation changes only when it has to, that's testimony to the fact that the people in it don't have a picture of the future that's compelling enough to cause them to automatically bring about changes needed.

The capacity for aspiration has to do with creating such a compelling picture. It involves the disciplines of personal mastery and building shared vision.

But people don't aspire in a vacuum. They have to be able to make sense of their current reality.

Right, but the problem is, people often have very different views of what's going on. So just as they need a sense of capacity to aspire and foster shared visions, they also need a second broad capacity, which involves the ability to think together and reach some common understandings.

People often suppress their differences, choosing simply to salute the flag of what management says. But for organisational learning to take place, people have to be able to articulate their assumptions about what's going on--in other words, to learn the discipline of bringing their differing mental models out into the open.

Organisational or team learning also requires the ability to overcome the fear of conflict so as to challenge one another's thinking without invoking defensiveness. This is essentially the discipline of dialogue. If people think they always have to agree, the intelligence of the overall organisation will never be greater than the sum of its individuals' intelligence. Collective intelligence comes from our differences: we achieve a more integrative understanding by virtue of seeing how different people view a particular situation.

These first four disciplines--personal mastery, building a shared vision, working with mental models, and dialogue and team learning--all have to do with building the individual and collective capacity to have a strong conviction about what we want to create as well as the capacity to think together.

What about the fifth discipline--systems thinking?

Oscar Wilde said, "For every complex problem, there's a simple solution. And it's wrong." How do we really deal with the world without either trivialising its complexity or overwhelming people with all the complexity? This is the third broad capacity and it's where the discipline of systems thinking comes in.

Systems thinking has to do with learning how to see the interdependence--the processes of change that are always going on all around us but which we normally don't see. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Peter Senge: The Dynamics of Change and Sustainability
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.