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Timeline of Learning Organization Concepts

If there are events or concepts you think should be included in this timeline, email us. Like "open source" software, the more people contribute to it, the more value it will gain. We're trying to, as Dance of Change contributor Daniel Kim puts it, "capture the whole story before it becomes completely lost." Eventually we'll post the entire timeline here on the web site.

1938 In his book Experience and Education, John Dewey publishes the concept of experiential learning as an ongoing cycle of activity.  
1947s Macys Conferences organized by Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson and Lawrence Kubie bring "systems thinking" to the awareness of a cross-disciplinary group of key intellectuals.
1940s Scottish psychologist Kenneth Craik coins the term "mental models," which later makes its way to MIT through Marvin Minsky and Seymour Papert.  
1946 National Training Laboratories co-founder Kurt Lewin proposes idea of "creative tension" between a person's vision and sense of reality.  
1956 Jay Forrester begins developing "system dynamics"  
Ed Schein's research on brainwashing in Korea paves way for understanding of process consultation.
1960 The Human Side of Enterprise (Douglas McGregor) is published.  
1961 Industrial Dynamics (Jay Forrester) is published. This first major application of system dynamics to corporations, describes the turbulence of orders in a typical appliance value chain.  
1964 MIT graduate students develop the "beer game" to illustrate Industrial Dynamics, one of the first simulations of systems (conveniently converting toasters to beer)
1969 Urban Dynamics (Jay Forrester) is published, codifying the "Shifting the Burden" archetype  
1970 Chris Argyris and Donald Schön begin their collaboration into "Action Science," the study of how espoused values clash with the values that underlie real actions.  
1972 Limits to Growth (Dennis Meadows, Donella Meadows, et al) is published, applying Forrester's systems dyuamics to the "world problematique" for the Club of Rome, triggering a furious reaction from economists.  
1973 Learning to Plan and Planning to Learn (Don Michael) is published, a book for policy makers that sets out the idea of organizational learning for the first time.
1971-1975 Erhard training seminars (est) demonstrate the powerful attitude shifts that can come about in a seminar lasting several days.  
1974 Theory in Practice (Chris Argyris, Donald A. Schön) is published.  
1975 "Management change" consultant Charlie Kiefer, Forrester student Peter Senge, and "creative process" researcher/artist Robert Fritz design the "leadership and mastery" seminar that becomes the focal point of their new consulting firm, Innovation Associates.  
1982 Working at Procter & Gamble, and helping them follow up their famously secretive sociotechnical systems work, Forrester alumna and Innovation Associates consultant Jennifer Kemeny, along with Kiefer and Senge, develops the "systems archetypes" -- a technique for translating system dynamics complexities into relatively simple conversation-starters.  
Pierre Wack, scenario planner at Royal Dutch/Shell, spends a sabbatical at Harvard Business School, and for the first time writes his article about scenario practice as a learning activity.
1984 Senge, Arie de Geus, Hanover Insurance CEO Bill O'Brien, Analog Devices CEO Ray Stata, and other executive leaders form a learning organization study group, meeting regularly at MIT.  
1985 Action Science (Chris Argyris, Robert Putnam, Diana McLain Smith) is published.  
1987 Drawing on this group's work, Senge and de Geus begin working on a book together, brokered by Shell networker Napier Collyns, who introduces them to Doubleday editor Harriet Rubin. de Geus publishes his ideas in a key Harvard Business Review article, called "Planning as Learning," in which he concludes, "The greatest competitive advantage for any organization is its ability to learn."  
1988 Peter Schwartz, Stewart Brand, Napier Collyns, Jay Ogilvy, and Lawrence Wilkinson form the networked organization Global Business Network, with a charter to foster organizational learning through scenario planning.
1989 Senge and de Geus decide that they should develop separate books. Senge finishes his manuscript, for a book ultimately titled The Fifth Discipline, a few months after his second son is born.  
Oxford University management scholar Bill Isaacs, an associate of quantum physicist David Bohm's, introduces Senge to Bohm and to the concept of dialogue as a process for building team capability.  

The Center for Organizational Learning is formed at MIT, with Senge as director, and with Ed Schein, Chris Argyris, Arie de Geus, Ray Stata, and Bill O'Brien as key advisors and governors. The research staff of the "learning center," as it's called, includes Daniel Kim and systems researcher Janet Gould; later, Bill Isaacs, Fred Kofman, and future "Dance of Change" coauthor George Roth will join the staff.

Daniel Kim, MIT researcher on the links between learning organization work and the quality movement, cofounds the Sytems Thinker newsletter, the first ongoing publication of "fifth discipline" - related issues with writer/editor Colleen Lannon-Kim. The parent organization, Pegasus Communictions, launches an annual Systems Thinking in Action Conference the following year.  
The Age of Unreason (Charles Handy) is published.  
1990 The Fifth Discipline is published, drawing upon a large body of work: system dynamics, "personal mastery" (based on Fritz' work and the concept of creative tension), mental models (based on Wack's and Argyris' work), shared vision (drawing on the organizational change traditions at Innovation Associates), and team learning (drawing on dialogue and David Bohm's concepts).
1992 The popularity of the "learning organization" community is recognized when 350 people from around the world gather for four days at a conference at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire.  
1993 Harvard University professor David Garvin publishes an article in the Harvard Business Review on organizational learning, arguing that only learning that can be measured will be useful to managers.  
1994 -The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook is published. Its authors include Peter Senge along with longstanding learning organization consultants Charlotte Roberts, Rick Ross, and Bryan Smith (who is also the president of Innovation Associates of Canada), along with writer Art Kleiner, who becomes editorial director. The "Fieldbook" concept becomes a new management book genre.
Philip J. Carroll becomes CEO of Shell Oil Company, and fosters a four-year "transformation" initiative that will involve Shell Oil deeply with organizational learning.  
The innovation of "learning histories," a method of using oral history techniques to assess organizational learning, begins at the Center for Organizational Learning.  
1995 The first major visible Organizational Learning Center projects are finished. Many of them have produced remarkable results, but they also have led to disappointing career prospects for the line leaders who invested in them —particularly for the two featured in The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, the 1994 Ford Lincoln Continental and the GS Technologies dialogue project.  
The Organizational Learning Center begins a two year process, working with Dee Hock, a founding CEO of VISA, to spring out into a more general international consortium called the Society for Organizational Learning. Peter Senge is named the first chairperson of SoL's elected governing council.
A series of workshops and sessions take place, building on sessions that started in 1993 at the Learning Center, then at the Society for Organizational Learning, and then sponsored by the Fieldbook authors, to develop a better understanding of the forces that make it difficult to sustain organizational learning (and other change) projects. These lead to an unpublished paper, "The Ecology of Leadership," by Peter Senge, which develops the idea of innate "challenges of profound change."  
1996 Arthur D. Little buys Innovation Associates; it is one of several consulting firms (others include Anderson Consulting and Ernst & Young) that invest heavily in building "learning organization" capability.  
The Age of Heretics (Art Kleiner) is published;
Synchronicity (Joe Jaworski) is published.
1997 Jack Welch asserts in the General Electric annual report that GE's only competitive advantage is its ability to learn.  
The Living Company (Arie de Geus) is published.  
1999 The Dance of Change, built around ten "Challenges of Profound Change," is published.
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