The ever-changing business environment compels businesses to become learning organizations. A learning organization is a firm that continuously learns the dynamics of its external and internal environment and transforms accordingly in order to safeguard its survival and success. In a learning organization, employees do not abide by the rubrics of traditional hierarchy but rather strive to continually expand their capacity to generate the outcomes that they desire; fresh patterns of thought are nurtured and collective aspiration is delivered. This paper discusses Senge’s (2014) five disciplines of a learning organization. They comprise shared vision, systems thinking, mental models, team learning, and personal mastery. These disciplines describe how managers can manage development and success of an organization by encouraging continuous development in response to the changing business environment.
Learning organizations should have a shared vision. A shared vision represents an idea that is created through interaction with all members of the organization and which brings together the ‘dreams’ of all people in the organization. Google can create a shared vision by compromising individual and organization’s vision, and instead, creating a vision that reflects the aspirations and ambitions of all stakeholders. By creating a shared vision, employees perform tasks because of intrinsic motivation rather than extrinsic reasons. Another learning discipline that focuses on the greater picture is systems thinking. Systems thinking requires leaders and managers to visualize the organization as a system with interacting and interrelated elements. At Google, this could be done by linking processes with their inputs and outputs and studying the resulting flows, stocks, and loops.
Senge (2014) claims that managers should create lasting mental models of the business to make sure that employees can relate to the values of the company and the core agenda of the business. The mental model should correctly reflect the image of the business with changing times. For Google to outperform its competitors, the organization should learn and adapt to new models. Mental models are linked to the discipline of team learning. Solid mental models that are molded into individual employees are further frozen when the organization groups the workforce into excellent functional teams. Google has trained its workforce to consider colleagues as team mates instead of rivals. This has allowed employees to express their real personalities.
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Finally, employees should have personal mastery of the vision and goals along with a correct perception of reality. In essence, the divergence between vision and reality is what drives an employee to work towards a certain end (Salman & Broten, 2017). The creative tension, thus, depends on how a member of the workforce perceives reality. Employees with a distorted view of the reality will only stray away from the shared vision of the company. For this reason, managers should always share true information in order to create a valid personal mastery of vision and reality.
Application of the five learning disciplines can be a daunting task, especially for new organizations that have not gained a clear understanding of their environment. Fortunately, Google has mastered its technological environment, which is why it is a leading performer in the world of search engine advertising, cloud computing, and mobile operating systems platforms. In order for the company to push its performance further up, it should focus on long-term growth and foster unity among its workforce.