Although Senge acknowledged that he was not the first person to write about organizational learning, his presentation seems to imply that his ideas have broader relevance than prior perspectives. Of course, he may have been unaware of the earlier research about organizational learning. He could have used the prior research he ignored to bolster his case for the need to approach organizational learning differently. The very fact that most organizational learning is ineffective or eventually causes problems gives reason for readers to pay attention to new ideas. At the same time, Senge’s lessons do not focus on the kinds of organizational learning that typically do occur. He is not naïve and he recognizes that human behavior often impedes learning and that much organizational learning goes amiss. He is proposing that a more effective kind of learning could be occurring. He is a visionary who is trying to describe an idealized organizational form that does not exist today but, he says, could exist in the future.
What Senge said and how he said it
The Fifth Discipline has unusual properties. This fact should surprise no one, of course, because the book has had extreme success far beyond that of almost all other books. Even if the book’s success is partly due to its timing and environment, it is unlikely to look exactly like less successful books. However, the book has properties that make it both attractive and unattractive to readers. Some evidence suggests that The ...