A spiritual perspective on Senge’s five disciplines: harmony and Alibaba

Carry MAK*, Robin Stanley SNELL, Jacky HONG

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)

Abstract

Purpose
The purpose of this paper is to investigate Peter Senge’s ideas from the perspective of the spiritual ideal of harmony/He (和).

Design/methodology/approach
Following a literature review of the conceptualization of Senge’s fifth discipline and harmony, an appreciative case study of Alibaba is adopted to demonstrate the role of harmony in guiding the transformative application of the five disciplines of the learning organization.

Findings
In developing as a learning organization, Alibaba is portrayed as having embraced three levels of harmony: person-within-oneself, person-to-others and person-to-nature harmony. The authors identify three equivalencies between Senge’s disciplines and the traditional Chinese ideal of harmony. First, personal mastery and metal models correspond to developing person-within-oneself harmony. Second, team learning and shared vision entail developing person-to-others harmony. Third, systems thinking aligns with person-to-nature harmony.

Practical implications
The case study demonstrates various approaches that can be used to foster the development of person-within-oneself, person-to-others and person-to-nature harmony within an aspiring learning organization.

Originality/value
This paper shows how core values of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism, distilled into the Chinese ideal of harmony, can encourage the cultivation of learning organizations.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalThe Learning Organization
Early online date4 Sep 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Sep 2020

Keywords

  • Harmony
  • Learning organization
  • Senge
  • Spirituality
  • The fifth discipline

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