Must Read Books:
The Fifth Discipline

The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization. by Peter M. Senge. NY: Doubleday, 1990.

Note: The following are notes from the above book. I found the book seminal, eye-opening, life-changing. I recommend that you buy and read the entire book. Only by reading the entire book will you get the whole picture. The following quotes, I hope, will whet your appetite. --Colby Glass

How Our Actions Create Our Reality... and How We Can Change It

"...we are taught to break apart problems... [as a consequence] 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...

"The tools and ideas presented in this book are for destroying the illusion that the world is created of separate, unrelated forces" (3).

"The ability to learn faster than your competitors... [is] the only sustainable competitive advantage...

"It is no longer sufficient to have one person learning for the organization, a Ford or a Sloan or a Watson. It's just not possible any longer to "figure it out" from the top, and have everyone else following the orders of the "grand strategist." The organizations that will truly excel in the future will be organizations that discover how to tap people's commitment and capacity to learn at ALL levels in an organization" (4).

"...five new "component technologies" are gradually converging to innovate learning organizations...


    "Systems thinking is a conceptual framework... 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" (6-7).


    "... [to be] able to consistently realize the results that matter most deeply to them... [people] do that by becoming committed to their own lifelong learning... the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies...

    ".. surprisingly few organizations encourage the growth of their people in this manner. This results in vast untapped resources" (7).


    "... deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations... that influence how we understand the world and how we take action...

    "...they discovered how pervasive was the influence of hidden mental models...

    "...institutional learning.. is the process whereby management teams change their shared mental models" (8-9).


    " bind people together around a common identity and sense of destiny.

    "When there is a genuine vision (as opposed to the all-too-familiar "vision statment"), people excel and learn, not because they are told to, but because they want to" (9).

    "..given a choice, most people opt for pursuing a lofty goal.." (9).


    "The discipline of team learning starts with "dialogue," the capacity of members of a team to suspend assumptions and enter into a genuine "thinking together" ...allowing the group to discover insights not attainable individually...

    "The patterns of defensiveness are often deeply ingrained in how a team operates. If unrecognized, they undermine learning...

    "Team learning is vital because teams, not individuals, are the fundamental learning unit in modern organizations" (10).

"...the five learning disciplines.. are "personal" disciplines. Each has to do with how we think, what we truly want, and how we interact and learn with one another" (11).

"It is vital that the five disciplines develop as an ensemble... This is why systems thinking is the fifth discipline...

"At the heart of a learning organization is a shift of mind... from seeing problems as caused by someone or something "out there" to seeing how our own actions create the problems we experience" (12-13).

Metanoia -- A Shift of Mind

"... "metanoia".. means a shift of mind... a fundamental shift or change, or more literally transcendence ("meta" -- above or beyond, as in "metaphysics") of mind ("noia" from the root "nous", of mind). In the early (Gnostic) Christian tradition, it took on a special meaning of awakening shared intuition and direct knowing of the highest, of God...

"To grasp the meaning of "metanoia" is to grasp the deeper meaning of "learning," for learning also involves a fundamental shift or movement of mind...

"Most people's eyes glaze over if you talk to them about "learning"... Little wonder -- for, in everyday use, learning has come to be synonymous with "taking in information." "Yes, I learned all about that at the course yesterday." Yet, taking in information is only distantly related to real learning. It would be nonsensical to say, "I just read a great book about bicycle riding -- I've now learned that"" (13).

"Real learning gets to the heart of what it means to be human. Through learning we recreate ourselves. Through learning we become able to do something we never were able to do. Through learning we reperceive the world and our relationship to it. Through learning we extend our capacity to create, to be part of the generative process of life" (14).

"What if, in light of what organizations COULD be, "excellence" is actually "mediocrity"?

".. most organization learn poorly. The way they are designed and managed, the way people's jobs are defined, and, most imporantly, the way we have all been taught to think and interact (not only in organizations but more broadly) create fundamental learning disabilities... (18).

[The following are] the seven learning disabilities:


    "When asked what they do for a living, most people describe the tasks they perform every day, not the PURPOSE of the greater enterprise in which they take part" (18).

    "When people in organizations focus only on their position, they have little sense of responsibility for the results produced when all positions interact" (19).


    "There is in each of us a propensity to find someone or something outside ourselves to blame when things go wrong" (19).


    "All too often, "proactiveness" is reactiveness in disguise... fighting the "enemy out there"... True proactiveness comes from seeing how we contribute to our own problems" (21).


    "We are conditioned to see life as a series of events, and for every event, we think there is one obvious cause...

    "...event explanations.. distract us from seeing the longer-term patterns of change that lie behind the events and from understanding the causes of those patterns...

    "Our fixation on events is actually part of our evolutionary programming... What [WAS] important [for a cave person was] the ability to see the saber-toothed tiger over your left shoulder and react quickly. The irony is that, today the primary threats to our survival, both of our organizations and of our societies, come not from sudden events but from slow, gradual processes; the arms race, environmental decay, the erosion of a society's public education system, increasingly obsolete physical capital, and decline in design or product quality.. are all slow, gradual processes" (22).

    Please send comments to: Colby Glass, MLIS

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