One of the most engaging descriptions of a learning disability Senge discusses in The Fifth Discipline is around the idea of leaders being blind to their decisions and their ultimate contribution to their demise. Senge sums it up as follows: “In story after story, leaders could not see the consequences of their own policies, even when they were warned in advance that their own survival was at stake” (Senge, 1990, p. 25). For some reason, human beings, especially those in positions of power, feel the need to assert themselves, or make decisions based on the immediate result. Senge also discusses this learning disability in the beer game with the structures of supply and demand. Initially, the beer game showed tremendous success and expansion, until the supply and demand model could no longer handle the growth. This truly prohibits the long-term success of organizations, simply because leaders cannot ignite the collective capacity of the individuals in their organizations.
A term that Senge describes in the field book and at length in The Fifth Discipline can allow leaders to escape the perpetual implosion faced by so many organizations. The term is dialogue. Senge provides the following narrative in the field book: “The philosopher Martin Buber used the term ‘dialogue’ in 1914 to describe a mode of exchange among human beings in which there is a true turning to one another, and a full appreciation of another not as an object in a social function, but as a genuine being” (Senge, 1994, p. 359). I have personally employed this tool and it has truly rewarded me. I have most noticed the application of this concept in meetings where ideas are being traded and discussions are occurring. Senge specifically differentiates dialogue from discussion.
Senge, P.M. (1990). The fifth discipline: the art and practice of the learning organization, NY: Double Currency.
Senge, P.M., Roberts, C., Ross, R. B., Smith, B. J., Kleiner, A. (1994). The fifth discipline fieldbook, NY: Doubleday.