How do you define a learning organization? by Peter Senge, Author of The Fifth Discipline

what is your definition of a learning

organization and how can leaders build a

learning organization what types of

resources do you need well first off I

would jettison the jargon you know it

term like that the learn learning

relation is always to some degree going

to be jargony and and therefore gets to

be off-putting for people you know just

think of it as people working together

at their best you know how do we grow

organizations where that's the norm and

it's a real in continual relentless

process to keep learning how to work

together in our best because if you're

doing that you're going to be learning

as I said you know there's only two

mindsets that kind of can infiltrate an

organization control or learning and and

it's question of which one is dominant

and if learning dominates I guarantee

you you'll create all the different

aspects that we call learning

organization I think that you know the

how-to is obviously what all the work

has always been about and that's why

there's not only the original fifth

discipline there's the fifth discipline

field book there's a dance of change

field book there's even a field book

strictly I'm doing this in educational

context it's called schools that learn

and those field books are like 600 pages

of stories and examples and tips and

tools so there's a lot of how-to so you

can't really summarize it very

completely in a brief form but it comes

back to those three broad areas but

there are tools we talked about before

the pre broad areas you know fostering

aspiration there are tools for

encouraging you know building personal

mastery and building shared vision

creative tension is a very basic tool

that individuals learn how to work with

there are tools for a fostering

reflection the ladder of inference is a

tool that we found once people learn

they never you know stop using it and in

teams its enormous ly powerful it's

basically just a weighted more in a more

disciplined way distinguish what

actually happened from my

interpretations and attributions about

what happened all my assumptions and

becoming disciplined in distinguishing


assumption you might say assumptions are

really important it's not they're bad

you don't ever get rid of assumptions

you can't live without assumptions the

question is you know are we disciplined

in relating those to what's actually

happening so those are a set of tools

and in the system's understanding and

seeing larger systems there's a whole

set of tool system archetypes

you know seeing basic patterns of

systemic activity like what we call

shifting the verb a pattern where

there's a problem and people focus

quickly on a quick fix but they know

there's a deeper source of the problem

and if they get caught up in the quick

fix they never get to the deeper source

so understanding those systemic patterns

we call them archetypal pattern system

archetypes so there's tools all over the

place so you need to have tools to work

with and that's why all these big field

books exists and a lot of those tools

have evolved but there's plenty out

there but then you also need to have a

commitment to this you know so we often

call it the guiding ideas so what does

the organization stand for in Bob

Keegan's recent book on deeply

developmental organizations he gives

three examples of organizations that are

very explicitly by their philosophy by

their actions by their day to day

practice dedicated to the continual

development of their people so you need

to have you might say a philosophic

framework to kind of orient you and then

you need to have time so the three

things we say that always matter in

practice are do you have tools do you

have a kind of guiding philosophy what

we often call guiding ideas that that

that help people orient that we're not

here just to make money yet we want to

be a good business we want to be a good

business that also grows people and we

really mean it and do have time do you

have the internal we often call them

learning infrastructures if there's no

time to reflect it doesn't matter how

skillful you are reflection if there's

no way to kind of organize and study

what's being learned in different places

people doing this and learning this but

over here people are restless they

probably have no clue what people have

learned over here because there's no

infrastructure and that shares that

learning in the software industry now

it's amazing and partly this is because

it's being done more

9 they're coordinating these distributed

development teams remotely so they

actually have a lot of data and they can

share it up so that will we often call

the learning infrastructure at the time

the resources to study and learn help

people learn from each other bring

people together

I know it's mundane but do people ever

get together and if they get together do

they do something I didn't watch stupid

powerpoints crazy that's the dumbest

thing in the whole world why would you

bring people together which is a big

undertaking and not use the time for

real learning do you know how to do that

do you have the tools if you have the

time do you know how to use the tools so

you know for example any organizations

really goodness they're really good at

hosting meetings where people actually

spend time really learning they have

world cafes one of the tools that's

propagated widely in our networks as a

way to organize big meetings in any

event so you need all three of those you

need tools Indian philosophy and you

need infrastructure to make it all real