One of my favorite things to do when waiting for a customer in their office is browse their book shelves. It gives me a great sense for the models and theories that they already have in their head, which gives us a good foundation for shared understanding. It's also a great opportunity for my own learning!
Yesterday I was in a new customer's office and came across "The Fifith Discipline Fieldbook" by Peter Senge. I have seen Peter speak and read the original book years ago, but had not come across this particular version. My customer was generous enough to lend it to me.
Peter made famous the concepts of "systems thinking" and a "learning organization" just as we were coming out of the industrial age into the age of the knowledge worker. I was browsing through the text (as the author encourages) and found some very valuable and timeless insights and models. Some are almost a natural part of our collective consciousness, and some are concepts that clearly we are still struggling with in businesses of all sizes.
One chapter restated that the core of having a learning organization is based upon five "learning disciplines" - lifelong programs of study and practice. As I read it, I thought to myself: "for all my exposure to these concepts and familiarity with the book, I can't name the Five Disciplines" (I would love to hear from all of you masters that CAN!)
For those of us that need a refresher, or who have never been exposed to the key disciplines, here they are:
1. Personal Mastery - learning to expand our personal capacity to create the results we most desire
2. Mental Models - reflecting upon, continually clarifying and improving our internal pictures of the world, and seeing how they shape our actions and decisions
3. Shared vision - building a sense of commitment in a group by developing shared images of the future we seek to create
4. Team learning - transforming conversational and collective thinking so that groups of people can create ability greater than te sum of individual talents
5. Systems thinking- a way of thinking and communicating about the forces and interrelationships that shape the behavior of systems.
So here is my question. Are you a learning organization? Do you embody these disciplines as a leader? Do you promote and build the structure so that your team and business meets the criteria for a learning organization?
It is clear in these times, more than it was when the book was written, having a "learning organization" is critical for agility, competitive advantage, and even survival. Make a commitment to take action on at least one of these ideas. If you need a little help getting started, just contact us!