Peter Senge is an American scientist, teacher and director of the Center for Organizational Learning at de MIT Sloan School of Management.

Peter Senge is the author of the book “The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization.” The Fifth Discipline is focused on group problem solving using the systems thinking method to convert companies into learning organizations.

Peter Senge was named “Strategist of the Century” by the Journal of Business Strategy, which said that he was one of a very few people who “had the greatest impact on the way we conduct business today.”

Peter Senge is the founding chairman of the Society for Organizational Learning (SoL), an organization that provides advice about the communication of ideas between large organizations. 

The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization

Senge’s five disciplines represent approaches theories and methods for developing three core learning capabilities: fostering aspiration, developing reflective conversation, and understanding complexity. The five disciplines of a “learning organization” are:

  1. “Personal Mastery: The discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively.
  2. Mental Models: Mental models are deeply ingrained assumptions and generalizations that influence how we understand the world and how we take action.
  3. Shared Vision: Building a shared vision is a practice of unearthing shared pictures of the future that foster genuine commitment and enrollment rather than compliance.
  4. Team Learning: Starts with ‘dialogue,’ the capacity of members of a team to suspend assumptions and enter into genuine ‘thinking together.’
  5. “Systems Thinking: The Fifth Discipline that integrates the other four disciplines.

Learning Disabilities

Deleterious habits or mindsets, which create “learning disabilities,” in an organization include:

  1. I am my position
  2. The enemy is out there
  3. The Illusion of Taking Charge
  4. The Fixation on Events
  5. The Parable of the Boiling frog
  6. The Delusion of Learning from Experience
  7. The Myth of the Management Team

60 Inspiring Quotes by Peter Senge

“Scratch the surface of most cynics and you find a frustrated idealist — someone who made the mistake of converting his ideals into expectations.”

“People don’t resist change. They resist being changed.”

“Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes. It is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing ‘patterns of change’ rather than static ‘snapshots.’”

“The committed person doesn’t play by the rules of the game. He is responsible for the game. If the rules of the game stand in the way of achieving the vision, he will find ways to change the rules.”

“Through learning we re-create 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”

“Personal mastery is the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively.”

“You cannot force commitment, what you can do…You nudge a little here, inspire a little there, and provide a role model.  Your primary influence is the environment you create.”

“Don’t push growth; remove the factors limiting growth.”

“The organizations that will truly excel in the future will be the organizations that discover how to tap people’s commitment and capacity to learn at all levels in an organization.”

“Sharing knowledge is not about giving people something, or getting something from them. That is only valid for information sharing.”

“Sharing knowledge occurs when people are genuinely interested in helping one another develop new capacities for action; it is about creating learning processes.”

“I believe benchmarking best practices can open people’s eyes as to what is possible, but it can also do more harm than good, leading to piecemeal copying and playing catch-up.”

“the bad leader is he who the people despise; the good leader is he who the people praise; the great leader is he who the people say, “We did it ourselves!”

“The most effective people are those who can “hold” their vision while remaining committed to seeing current reality clearly.”

“Business and human endeavours are systems…we tend to focus on snapshots of isolated parts of the system. And wonder why our deepest problems never get solved.”

“Collaboration is vital to sustain what we call profound or really deep change, because without it, organizations are just overwhelmed by the forces of the status quo. “

“Courage is simply doing whatever is needed in pursuit of the vision.”

“The world is made of Circles. And we think in straight Lines.”

“Vision is an idle dream at best and a cynical delusion at worst – but not an achievable end.”

“In the presence of greatness, pettiness disappears. In the absence of a great dream, pettiness prevails.”

“Leadership is about creating new realities.”

“A learning organization is an organization that is continually expanding its capacity to create its future.”

“It is not the absence of defensiveness that characterizes learning teams but the way defensiveness is faced”

“Our prevailing system of management has destroyed our people. People are born with intrinsic motivation, self-respect, dignity, curiosity to learn, joy in learning. The forces of destruction begin with toddlers—a prize for the best Halloween costume, grades in school, gold stars—and on up through the university. On the job, people, teams, and divisions are ranked, reward for the top, punishment for the bottom. Management by Objectives, quotas, incentive pay, business plans, put together separately, division by division, cause further loss, unknown and unknowable.”

“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.”

“people “shift the burden” of their problem to other solutions—well-intentioned, easy fixes which seem extremely efficient.”

“The practice of shared vision involves the skills of unearthing shared “pictures of the future” that foster genuine commitment and enrollment rather than compliance. In mastering this discipline, leaders learn the counterproductiveness of trying to dictate a vision, no matter how heartfelt.”

“Mental models are deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, or even pictures of images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action.”

“People with high levels of personal mastery…cannot afford to choose between reason and intuition, or head and heart, any more than they would choose to walk on one leg or see with one eye.”

“Vision without systems thinking ends up painting lovely pictures of the future with no deep understanding of the forces that must be mastered to move from here to there.”

“To listen fully means to pay close attention to what is being said beneath the words. You listen not only to the ‘music,’ but to the essence of the person speaking.”

“I believe benchmarking best practices can open people’s eyes as to what is possible, but it can also do more harm than good, leading to piecemeal copying and playing catch-up. As one seasoned Toyota manager commented after hosting over a hundred tours for visiting executives, “They always say ‘Oh yes, you have a Kan-Ban system, we do also. You have quality circles, we do also. Your people fill out standard work descriptions, ours do also.’ They all see the parts and have copied the parts. What they do not see is the way all the parts work together.” I do not believe great organizations have ever been built by trying to emulate another, any more than individual greatness is achieved by trying to copy another “great person.”

“When young people develop basic leadership and collaborative learning skills, they can be a formidable force for change.”

“That is why the discipline of managing mental models—surfacing, testing, and improving our internal pictures of how the world works—promises to be a major breakthrough for building learning organizations.”

“When people in organizations focus only on their position, they have little sense of responsibility for the results produced when all positions interact. Moreover, when results are disappointing, it can be very difficult to know why. All you can do is assume that “someone screwed up.”

“the journey is the reward.”

“Advocacy without inquiry begets more advocacy.”

“To empower people in an unaligned organization can be counterproductive.”

“When asked what they want, many adults will say what they want to get rid of.”

“In fact, most of the time, things do not turn out as we expect. But the potential value of unexpected developments is rarely tapped. Instead, when things turn out contrary to our expectations, we go immediately into problem-solving mode and react, or just try harder—without taking the time to see whether this unexpected development is telling us something important about our assumptions. “This more prepared mental state is really where a lot of the longer-term payoff is,” says Galloway.”

“We say, “That’s a very interesting idea,” when we have no intention of taking the idea seriously.”

“If I learned anything … it is the notion that we need to be working on all different parts of the system in order to successfully change the whole system,”

“The Japanese believe building a great organization is like growing a tree; it takes twenty-five to fifty years.”

“You cannot have a learning organization without shared vision. Without a pull toward some goal which people truly want to achieve, the forces in support of the status quo can be overwhelming.”

“One forceful CEO recently lamented to me about the absence of “real leaders” in his organization. He felt his company was full of compliant people, not committed visionaries. This was especially frustrating to a man who regards himself as a skilled communicator and risk taker. In fact, he is so brilliant at articulating his vision that he intimidates everyone around him. Consequently, his views rarely get challenged publicly. People have learned not to express their own views and visions around him. While he would not see his own forcefulness as a defensive strategy, if he looked carefully, he would see that it functions in exactly that way.”

“I believe that, the prevailing system of management is, at its core, dedicated to mediocrity. It forces people to work harder and harder to compensate for failing to tap the spirit and collective intelligence that characterizes working together at their best. Deming saw this clearly,”

“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 the organizations that discover how to tap people’s commitment and capacity to learn at all levels in an organization.”

“Learning organizations are possible because, deep down, we are all learners. No one has to teach an infant to learn. In fact, no one has to teach infants anything. They are intrinsically inquisitive, masterful learners who learn to walk, speak, and pretty much run their households all on their own.”

“The core leadership strategy is simple: be a model.”

“When there is a genuine vision (as opposed to the all-too-familiar “vision statement”), people excel and learn, not because they are told to, but because they want to. But many leaders have personal visions that never get translated into shared visions that galvanize an organization. All too often, a company’s shared vision”

“leaders’ work as teachers often starts with their recognition of an important capacity that is lacking in an organization.”

“Great teachers create space for learning and invite people into that space.”

“We will never transform the prevailing system of management without transforming our prevailing system of education. They are the same system.”

“In my view the greatest evil in the world today is ever-increasing power and wealth in ever-fewer hands,”

“Organizations learn only through individuals who learn.”

“It is a testament to our naïveté about culture that we think that we can change it by simply declaring new values. Such declarations usually produce only cynicism.”

“When executives lead as teachers, stewards, and designers, they fill roles that are much more subtle and long-term than those of power-wielding hierarchical leaders.”

“Over the long run, superior performance depends on superior learning.”

“Collaboration is vital to sustaining what we call profound or really deep change because, without it, organizations are just overwhelmed by the forces of the status quo. ”

“When you ask people what it is like being part of a great team, what is most striking is the meaningfulness of the experience.”

“A shared vision is not an idea…it is rather, a force in people’s hearts…at its simplest level, a shared vision is the answer to the question ‘What do we want to create?”

“Trusting people to be creative and constructive when given more freedom does not imply an overly optimistic belief in the perfectibility of human nature.”



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