Learning organization

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An organization whose key personnel view its future success as being based on continuous learning and adaptive behaviour


A learning organization is not a single model but rather a concept and attitude for its members. Learning organization is renowned for creating, acquiring, interpreting and retaining knowledge and then modifying its behavior to reflect new knowledge and insights. It typically has flat management, life-long learning, structure simplification and elastic response. It facilitates the learning of its members and continuously transforms itself. Because of its learning-based and flexible structure, learning organization can survive under the high external pressure or in an adverse external environment.

The concept of learning organization was proposed in [1] and [2] by Peter Senge in 1990s. These books conclude his extensive research into what different organizations do to build learning capacity, and why some organizations use learning better than others.

Essential characteristics of a learning organization

The five learning disciplines to develop a learning organization are:

  1. Building shared vision: To build a practice of unearthing shared pictures of the future that foster genuine commitment and enrollment rather than compliance.
  2. Team learning: Starting with dialogue, to develop the capability of members of a team to suspend assumptions and enter into genuine thinking together.
  3. Improving mental models: To change those deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, or even pictures of images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action.
  4. Personal mastery: People with a high level of personal mastery are able to consistently realize the results that matter most deeply to them in effect, they approach their life as an artist would approach a work of art. They do that by becoming committed to their own lifelong learning.
  5. System thinking: A conceptual framework, a body of knowledge and tools 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.


[1] Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization

[2] Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization

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