Peter Senge, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management and founder of the Society for Organizational Learning, is perhaps best known for his 1990 best-selling book, The Fifth Discipline, which introduced the idea of the "learning organization." Now, Senge has a new work that promises to be as influential as the first. In The Necessary Revolution: How Individuals and Organizations Are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World (Doubleday, 2008), Senge and his co-authors grapple with the daunting environmental problems we face, and highlight innovative steps taken by individuals and corporations, often in partnership with global organizations such as Oxfam, toward a more sustainable world.
It may seem surprising that an expert in management and organizational change is focusing on sustainability, but there is a strong connection to Senge's work. In his earlier book, he laid out an approach to management that combines systems thinking, collaboration, and team learning. As he describes it, a learning organization is one in which "people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together." Such organizations tend to be more flexible, adaptive, and productive—critical qualities in a time of rapid change.