A learning organisation

Definition A learning organisation is a place: “where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together.” Source: from ‘The Fifth Discipline’, Peter Senge, Century Business 1990, ISBN 0-7126-5687-1. The non-learning organisation To understand what makes a learning organisation, it’s useful to imagine a place where no learning takes place. In the non-learning organisation: the old ways of doing things is the best waymistakes get made but no–one asks why or how they can be avoided in the futureindividuals get rewarded for personal workshared delivery is not encouragedthere is little opportunity for joint problem-solvingpeople rarely meet to discuss how they work mistakes do not get aired – they get buried people avoid asking for helpthere is little encouragement to go on training coursesknowledge is not shared – it is held by the individual the structures of the organisation do not support reflection and sharingthe organisation is reactive and based on survival rather than proactivity. The non-learning organisation is  a place that is stuck, has rigid thinking and is unwilling to consider change or development. The learning organisation The learning opposition takes the opposite approach to that illustrated above. The learning organisation: thrives in situations of rapid changeis flexible, adaptive and productiveis future-focusedcan “discover how to tap people’s commitment and capacity to learn at all levels” (Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline)continually expands its capacity to create a future with  a fundamental shift of mind among its membersprovides tools and guides ideas to make sense of their workmakes people feel they are part of a great teamgives people a sense of meaning in their work experiencehas people who talk about being part of something larger than themselves, of being connected, of being creative. Five essential disciplines for learning organisations Peter Senge identifies five disciplines that are essential to innovative learning organisations: Systems thinking: Being able to understand and address the whole and to examine the relationships between the parts and the whole, as a dynamic process.Personal mastery: Mastery is a special kind of proficiency which goes beyond competence and skills. It involves continually clarifying and deepening our personal abilities and goals.Mental models: These are deeply held assumptions, generalisations, pictures and images which influence how we understand the world and how we take action. It involves learning to unearth our internal pictures of the world, to bring them to the surface and scrutinise them rigorously.Building shared vision: This means creating a shared picture of the future we seek to create. It fosters a sense of the long term.Team learning: When teams learn together, not only will there be good results for the organisation, but members will also grow more rapidly. This involves dialogue and the capacity of members of a team to suspend assumptions and enter into a genuine ‘thinking together’. Source: This material was adapted and reproduced from the Encyclopaedia of Informal Education.

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