First Principles of LO LO11872

Debra Kosemetzky (
Mon, 13 Jan 1997 13:55:53 -0500 (EST)

Replying to LO11664 --

On Sun, 5 Jan 1997 wrote:

> One of the defining characeristics of a first principle in, for example, math and
> science, is that once you understand the principle, it becomes fairly
> evident if and how a given operation eminates from a given principle. If I
> were able to define a new operation that works (i.e., gives me predictable
> results),

An excellent book to read about systems (which an organization is, of
course) is Erich Jantsch's the Self Organizing Universe and/or Ilya
Prigogine's Order Out of Chaos. The reason I mention this is that
"predictability" is a concept for a closed, isolated system, a point that
is often overlooked. The best can do is increase the probability or the
possibility that a certain outcome will occur. We use our best
information, intuition, even hunches to ensure the outcome we want. A
learning organization, for me, is one that acknowledges that the future is
open, ready to be created moment by moment.

Organizations are open systems (a first principle) and are therefore
"unpredictable." There is no formula, mathematical or otherwise, that can
predict behaviour in an open system.

I agree that Peter Senge's work is hardly first principles but it feels
like a neat framework. If we consider it a framework for synthesizing
what we notice about what is going on in organizations, that is one thing.
But we have a long way to go

> With the above in mind, I have always struggled to understand how the Five
> Disciplines comprise a set that emanates from some principle. They feel
> somewhat random to me. I am unable to make a case for these five
> disciplines versus another five. Or to argue that another "discipline"
> does not fit. This is not to say that they don't have value, but I would
> have a hard time taking the Five Disciplines as a given and then try to
> define first principles from them. To me, that mental model would make it
> difficult for me to "hear" the elegant relationships between operation and
> principle.
> Has anyone out there tried to do this?

Yes. And there is no ONE way to introduce the idea of a learning
organization into an established, mature organization. Complexity theory
suggests that a newer organization has more flexibility to institute
learning routines (continual reflection on accomplishments and goals).
However, a mature organization, with its more rigid formalized structures
requires radical surgery. And, of course, this has an effect on real
people. Change requires learning. Any radical restructuring will force
the organization to become a "learning organization." This raises another
question for folks out there...

Is there a way to create INTENTIONAL learning processes. It seems to me
that right now, people in organizations are being called on to be fast
learners, and it's not that comfortable for them.

Debra Kosemetzky
Toronto, Canada


Debra Kosemetzky <>

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <> -or- <>