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Learning Environment Design Framework
Instructional Design Toolkit

ISD Concept Map
ISD Concept Map

The Learning Organization

In 1990, Peter Senge popularized the "Learning Organization" with his book, The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. He describes the organization as an organism with the capacity to enhance its capabilities and shape its own future. A learning organization is any organization, such as a school, business, or government agency, that understands itself as a complex, organic system and has a vision and purpose. It uses feedback systems and alignment mechanisms to achieve its goals. It values teams and leadership throughout the ranks.

Real learning is not just limited to understanding what is necessary to survive (adaptive learning), but also includes “generative learning” — expanding people's capacity to create the results they truly desire. Learning itself includes three different activities: thinking, communicating and cooperating. When our capacities to think, communicate and cooperate are enhanced, so is our ability to learn. Thus, a learning organization is one which fosters and enhances these activities for its members and members of the community in which it exists.

The book lists five disciplines of a good learning organization:

...Most top-down change strategies are doomed from the start. Driving change from the top is like a gardener standing over his plants and telling them to grow harder. A good gardener addresses the balancing processes, making sure there is enough water and nutrients. Likewise, leaders should focus less on change itself and more on planning for the natural reactions against it. If people do something new that is effective, they will want to do more of it. - Peter Senge

He followed that book with 1999's The Dance of Change: The Challenge to Sustaining Momentum in Learning Organizations, which shows the difficulty of achieving the learning organization.

Also see The Learning Organization.

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