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Learning Organisation News – December 1998


Graham Guest contributes the next edition of his newsletter [email protected].


I began producing this newsletter in January with the intention of spreading the learning organisation message and giving information about relevant publications, web sites and events. In our networked world there is a lot of valuable information floating around in cyberspace and here on the ground, and co-operation is the key to making it available to as many interested people as possible. A recent visit to the new web site of the Institute of Continuing Professional Development led me to the TrainingZONE operated by Tim Pickles. The idea behind the zone is the provision of information, resource materials, directories and specific links for professionals engaged in self-learning and staff and organisational development. In the spirit of co-operation TrainingZONE now contains extracts from Learning Organisation News. My thanks to Tim for this. A visit to the zone will lead you to a discussion area and give you the opportunity to subscribe, free of charge, to the LearningWIRE newsletter.

More discussion

If you really want more discussion about the theory and practice of learning organisations to fill your 48-hour day I recommend subscribing to the Learning-org mailing list hosted by Richard Karash at You’ll never feel lonely again!

Acronyms anonymous

NVQs, SVQs and CATS are acronyms that strike chords with those of us in the world of educational development in the UK. I have had many discussions about how to reconcile the apparently discordant philosophies of National and Scottish Vocational Qualifications on one hand and Credit Accumulation and Transfer Systems on the other. Some very enlightening words have been written on this issue by Stan Lester, particularly in his paper, Professional Pathways: a case for measurements in more than one dimension, available from Stan’s web site at

Learning and experience

A brief mention of two other items of potential interest to learners. Learning from Experience Trust is now based at Goldsmiths College in London. Its new Director is Juliet Merrifield mailto:[email protected]. How and why do adults learn; what do they learn and how can they be given more opportunities? These are some of the questions addressed in Adults Learning, an informative and lively journal published 10 times a year by NIACE. For details contact Sara Bosley mailto:[email protected].


In the last issue I gave an example of a complex organisational structure. Charles Handy discusses alternative structures, including the shamrock organisation and the federal organisation, in his book The Age of Unreason (Arrow Business Books). I give an example of how the structure of a learning organisation might look in a discussion paper entitled Professional Bodies as Learning Organisations, which can be found on the web site of the European Higher Engineering and Technical Professionals Association (EurEta)

Systems thinking

Peter Senge calls systems thinking the fifth discipline because in his view it is the cornerstone of all the five learning disciplines and of how learning organisations think about their world. He says that today systems thinking is needed more than ever because we are becoming overwhelmed by complexity. It is a way of apprehending wholeness; a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things. Systems thinking shows us that there is no outside; that you and the cause of your problems are part of a single system. To my mind Senge’s five disciplines can be usefully complemented by the three processes of coaching, mentoring and benchmarking, and I would like to touch on these next year. Meanwhile I offer this diagram for consideration:

systems thinking

personal mastery mental models


building shared vision team learning


Thanks to all of you who have given feedback on Learning Organisation News. I hope the publication, modest though it is, makes a useful contribution to the continuing debate about how we, as individuals, learn and function as members of teams, organisations and networks. In the best tradition of regular publications I send all my readers
Season’s Greetings


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