Who is Peter Senge?


Peter M. Senge, Ph.D. is a Senior Lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management and Founding Chair of the Society for Organization Learning (SoL), a global community dedicated to the "interdependent development of people and their institutions." He is also the author of the widely acclaimed (and million-selling) book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, identified in 1997 by the Harvard Business Review as one of the seminal management books of the past 75 years. Dr. Senge has been published in Business Week, Fortune, and Fast Company, and has lectured extensively throughout the world. The Journal of Business Strategy (September/October 1999) named Dr. Senge as one of the 24 people who have had the greatest influence on business strategy over the last 100 years, and both The Financial Times and Business Week have listed him as a top management guru.

Senge founded MIT's Center for Organizational Learning (the precursor to SoL) in 1991 to foster collaboration among a group of corporations committed to fundamental organizational change. By 1995, the center consisted of 19 partners (including AT&T;, Federal Express, Ford Motors, IBM, and Shell Oil) who worked in collaboration with researchers at MIT to develop new approaches to organization and leadership. The Society for Organizational Learning, a non-profit, member-governed corporation, was founded in 1997 to expand upon this groundbreaking work. SoL currently consists of organizations, individuals, and local SoL communities around the world.

A learning organization, as Senge loosely defines it, is "a group of people who are continually enhancing their capabilities to create what they want to create." He maintains that human values in the workplace are essential foundations to enable organizations to realize their full potential, and he focuses on improving the ability of people to work productively towards a common objective.

"Most large institutions are so complex that no one person—no 'mover or shaker' in a position of authority—can bring about the needed change. Rather, large-scale transformation can only evolve when lots of people at all levels of an organization start to do things differently."
Towards this end, Senge has outlined the five disciplines crucial to the evolution of a learning organization: Team Learning, Building Shared Vision, Mental Models, Personal Mastery, and Systems Thinking. The last, of course, is Senge’s "fifth discipline," which he views as the ability and practice of examining whole systems rather than just trying to fix isolated problems. This concept lends itself remarkably well to such notions as environmental sustainability. SoL has brought together large multinational companies, prominent NGOs, and key governmental organizations to work on sustainability, collaborations which have led to, among other innovations, the creation of a line of organically-grown cotton sportswear by SoL member Nike, Inc.

Senge is currently in the process of exploring the contemplative and personal dimensions of organizational change, which he says began with SoL’s work with dialogue.

"We found that dialogue often involved silence, and so maybe we needed to actually cultivate the capacity to sit in silence," he told the Shambhala Sun in January 2024. "And guess what? That started to look a lot like traditional forms of meditation or contemplation."

This work has manifested itself in his new book Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future, co-authored with Otto Scharmer, which is a detailed exploration of how the capacity for deep presence affects and enacts the future. The authors view this capacity as a powerful means of accessing some of the most profound of potentials in both individuals and collectives.

Books by Peter Senge:

The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of The Learning Organization
Currency (1990)

The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization (with Charlotte Roberts, Rick Ross, Bryan Smith, and Art Kleiner)
Currency (1994)

The Dance of Change: The Challenges to Sustaining Momentum in Learning Organizations (with Art Kleiner, Ed., Charlotte Roberts, Rick Ross, George Roth, and Bryan Smith)
Currency (1999)

Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education (with Nelda H. Cambron McCabe, Timothy Lucas, Art Kleiner, Janis Dutton, and Bryan Smith)
Currency (2000)

Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future (with Claus Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, and Betty Sue Flowers)
Society for Organizational Learning (2004)

Peter has appeared on Integral Naked:

The Future Is Waiting for Your Presence3/8/2004