Pegasus Conference Summary LO9845

Richard Karash (
Mon, 9 Sep 1996 09:51:22 -0400 (EDT)

Pegasus Communications sponsors an annual conference "Systems Thinking in
Action" that has been mentioned here several times.

I would be delighted to have the learning-org list serve as an extension
to Pegasus' conference where we might pick-up topics from the conference
and continue the discussion here. As a warm-up for this year's event, I
have a summary of last years conference created by Lilly Evans in the UK,
which I am circulating now with her permission.

(Pegasus tells me there are still a few places open for this year's conf
in San Francisco 10/2-4. Phone 617-576-1231. I'll be there and hope to
see many of you!)

-- Rick

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: 23 Oct 95 20:59:31 EDT
From: Lilly Evans & co <>
To: Rick Karash <>

I enclose here my short note on STiA '95 -


WHERE: Boston, USA
WHEN: Sept.18-20, 1995

Overall Impressions

This conference has always been rich source of learning and inspiration.
It presents a unique opportunity to meet with people from various
organisations currently interested in or actively involved with
implementing learning organisations in a rich tapestry of settings. They
come from all levels in the companies. The atmosphere is unique and
choices immensely varied and very rich. Peter Senge was at the conference
for the whole time, probably the first time this has happened.

I believe that this conference represented a turning point in the work of
the MIT Center for Organisational Learning. The two distinct paradigms,
systems thinking (based solidly on "cause and effect", thus Newtonian in
its nature = either/or) and quantum theory (based on the premise that many
valid paths exist to achieve a goal = both/and) were exposed side by side.
This has created significant confusion, as there has been no real
acknowledgement that systems thinking has bounded applicability. Hence,
the focus was on the PRACTICES. Thus, no coherent story emerged from the
conference - this was clearly evidenced in the closing address.

Significant challenges lie ahead. It is quite unclear how will this
develop further within the MIT Sloan framework. New paradigm is brought
by philosophers and physicists with little management practice experience.
Their approach is still too conceptual and opaque for most audiences. The
insistence on the language purity and explanation of meaning obscures what
they really bring forth: THE IMPORTANCE OF LEARNING TO THINK. Without
this pre-condition, there is no real possibility for THINKING TOGETHER,
which is how one could characterise the learning organisation in the new

The only technique to emerge leading to this is DIALOGUE. Its' practice
comes in a few basic forms. The applications in the organisational
setting have been primarily to expose the feudal relationships that exist
in most organisations and start to look at positively changing them.
There is scope here for much more innovation.

Separately, there were several practical strands adressing practices which
work with the energy fields in various forms. All are intensely intuitive
(right brain) and based on developing deeper experiences as well as
different sensibilities of operating at other dimensions of the physical
world. I would characterise this pursuit as becoming aware of THE FIELD
OF POTENTIALITY FOR JOINT ACTION. The people with highly developed
analytical skills (left brain competences) need most support to grasp

Main trends

. This year there was a lowest turn from attendees outside USA - only
some 50 out of a total of 1,200. Of UK contingent, numbering 13 people,
only 4 came from large organisations.
1. What does this mean? How can the evident interest in UK (20,000
copies of "Fifth Discipline Fieldbook" sold in three months), Europe and
elsewhere be engaged?

. Some 80% of attendees broadly fall into the category of "social
scientists" (namely primary audience have been HR specialists of different
kinds, administrators, etc). Operational managers were in great minority.
2. Why this imbalance?

. Health sector continues to be strongly represented. Interest in
education sector is moving towards higher education and administration of
institutions themselves. Various government departments and agencies were
evident. Of industrial sectors, financial sector companies are making a
fairly strong showing for the first time. High technology and car industry
companies staff continue to be evident, though mostly the usual names
appear. Number of oil industry people is diminishing. Top strategy
consultancies had several representatives. Number of individual
consultants far outnumbered the people from large firms.
3. Where is the highest present leverage? Who are the true expert
practitioners? What constitutes appropriate consultancy support? Why
should the certification be addressed?

. New paradigm is becoming integral with the management accounting in
most progressive companies (namely Skania and Toyota). Its practice,
implications and basis have been explored and documented by the expert in
the traditional accounting field with high credentials, Prof. Tom Johnson.
The significance of this work seems to have been lost on great majority of
attendees. I consider this to be a real opportunity to engage the
executive boards. It is also a practical necessity for becoming a
learning organisation.
4. What should the " management accounting" for living, learning
organisation be like? How does one get from here to there?

. Thinking is getting on the agenda of senior executives. Ned Johnson
(Fidelity Investments) employs a man who describes himself as "his
thinker". Ideas are not enough. Their meaning(s) and how to effectively
assess them (beyond "using judgement") is the next quest. It has become
OK to hire personal coaches for leadership development. Now leaders at
all levels have to be accomplished thinkers. Few are prepared for this.
While models are transferable, you have to do your own thinking - only
then can you act differently! Hence, thinking is becoming a legitimate
organisational pursuit. This leads to the re-emergence of "corporate
thinkers", but not as a central elite.
5. How do thinkers engage the significant number of people in the
organisation? Who is an effective internal thinker? What role does
internal "University" play in this?

Lilly Evans
Lilly Evans & co <>

Posted by:

      Richard Karash ("Rick")    |  <>
  Speaker, Facilitator, Trainer  |     email:
"Towards learning organizations" | Host for Learning-Org Mailing List
(617)227-0106, fax (617)523-3839 |     <>

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