p1050170 225x300 China and India should retain their own identityInterview With Peter Senge, MIT OD expert

Peter Senge - Sunil's Interview in Mumbai


China and India should Retain Their Own Identity – Sunil Kumar with Peter Senge, MIT OD Guru – Aglaia Interactive

By Sunil Kumar( Originally Published A Few Years Back)

Confucius said: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” However cliched this statement may sound, it exemplifies, to a large extent, the collective Chinese work ethic and the resurgence of the Chinese nation to counter Occidental dominance. After the 1950s, we have seen wider prosperity throughout the globe. The benefits of education and healthcare have slowly benefited more parts of the world. This is due to technological prowess, coupled with more effective management of materials.

So, in the 21st century, where exactly are we headed? Is it a post-modern utopia, or is it a dystopia which humanity would face in the immediate future? To answer such questions, and more, I caught up with Dr. Peter Senge, the director of the Center for Organizational Learning, at the MIT Sloan School of Management. [Flashback to this day, he was slightly tipsy and I was in a universal state, a profound other-worldly mental experience.]

As an ‘idealistic pragmatist’(in his own words), Senge has been able to explore and advocate some rather utopian and abstract ideas. These largely revolve around systems theory. They also deal with the necessity to bring human values into the workplace.

How would you envisage a learning organization? 

Let us take a look at world history post industrial revolution. Society, as a whole, and industrial organizations in particular, have faced a learning challenge. Let us take the case of fossil-fuel emissions, the greenhouse effect, and the way things have shaped in the past one or two decades. Transport systems are in a perilous state. Government and businesses have to contend with the dynamics of a deeply industrial society. In such a transformational paradigm, organizations have to evolve to meet altered needs.

Going forward, organizations have to change their work processes to meet a changed thoughtscape and look at sustainability and viability in a holistic systems perspective.

What is communitarianism in the light of a learning organization?

India and China are traditionally considered to be close-knit societies. They are now moving towards a model where the North American idea is admired and sought to be emulated. China is aiming to become the next United Stares. If one goes through the speeches of the Chinese premier, it will be apparent that he has constantly been reiterating a drive towards a circular economy. He has done this because insufficient resources in the country are posing a great difficulty.

The idea of circular economy has been a heated topic in China in recent years. Experts say China’s hastening economic development has been gained at the cost of its environment and resources. This is an ideal example, on a national level, of a learning organization and communitarianism exemplified to its fullest. India also has to evolve along these lines. Since North America gobbles up most of the world’s resources, China and India have to evolve as a national unit geared towards communitarianism.

Could you elaborate on system archetypes and structures that recur in a person’s work life?

As individuals, what we are doing on a constant basis is seeing patterns which would fit into our respective modes of thinking. On a systemic level, these are the patterns that would culminate into fruitful behavior for an individual or an enterprise.

You have spoke about metanoia(mental models). Could you elaborate what it would mean for a CTO?

It has been a long time since Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase ‘global village.’ An ideal global village has to be based on the concept of equitable distribution with respect to all its constituent members. In this case, it would be relevant for enterprises and CTOs across the globe. What this means for different organizations is sustainability and viability in the next two or three decades. A healthy biosphere and an ecosystem, which organizations would create for themselves. A CTO has to take all these factors into account, and generate a reality, which would correspond to the rapidly changing volatile dynamics that would apply to him in the future.

What would this mean in terms of infrastructure for a learning community?

Working and learning are constant features of our daily lives. With regard to jobs, investment in infrastructure has a long history. After the second world war, and the resurgence of the quality movement, Japan marched forward assisted by Dr. Deming and Joseph Juran. These management gurus created an infrastructure for a learning community. Thus, an ideal breeding ground for further innovation was created. Going forward, I believe, this and other things will assist growth.

You have spoken about creative tension. How will this aid CTOs and knowledge workers in the new economy?

Basically, what this means is that learners have their own goals. In the modern world, everybody is a knowledge worker. Going forward into the 21st century, self-driven learning and an innate drive to innovate would assist CTOs and people.

Finally, what would an adaptive enterprise be, going forward into the 21st century?

An adaptive enterprise is basically one that is harmonious and counters dysfunctions by evolving continually. Our pattern of growth was from a manufacturing society to a services-based setup fueled by consumer electronics. Thus, having the right business model is what counts in the modern context. An adaptive enterprise would be a setup that constantly redefines its relationships and maintains a consistent balance between volume and changing dynamics.

What a CTO wants is greater throughput, which would accelerate his entire mindset and the enterprise in the 21st century. Considering the wasteful excesses of the industrialized nations, a CTO in India has to focus on minimal waste and greater thought given to industrial ecology.







 China and India should retain their own identityInterview With Peter Senge, MIT OD expert
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