The Fifth Discipline (1)

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The following post consists of quotations from Peter Senge’s book, The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, along with my own attempts at paraphrasing them. My purpose is to put in one place the most important lessons that I think I should learn from reading The Fifth Discipline, and so the following material is best described as consisting of my personal notes more than anything else. Since this isn’t a summary of the book, I will select passages that appeal to me for one reason or another, and not necessarily because they’re central to the author’s argument.

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Systemic Problems (1)

The following discussion is based on, and inspired by, the work of Jack Harich and associates, found at their website.

Problems come in all shapes and sizes, and they vary in terms of causes, scope, duration, etc. Here I am concerned with problems that seem to result directly or indirectly from the decisions made by individuals. Some of these problems are rarely encountered, since they occur due to mistakes or accidents, while other problems tend to occur over and over again.The problems that show up repeatedly may simply be the result of individuals making wrong decisions on a regular basis. Such problems are relatively easy to solve, since it usually doesn’t take a lot of effort to trace the symptoms of the problem to the particular decisions of particular individuals and then educating or training those individuals so they start making the right decisions.

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Requiem for the American Dream (3)

Throughout the history of the United States, there has been a constant struggle between two tendencies: On the one hand, we have “a democratizing tendency that’s mostly coming from the population—a pressure from below.” On the other hand, there is the tendency coming from the elite to maintain the status quo, and to reverse any concessions that may have been given in response to popular demands—a pressure from the top. As a result of these two tendencies acting and reacting in relation to each other, we see in our history alternating “periods of progress” and “periods of regression.” Thus, the 1960s constituted a period of “significant democratization,” and so the rights and freedoms won during that time brought about a powerful backlash from the elite, resulting in decades of regression and the reversal of those victories.

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