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What is the habit or mindset that thinking about this problem has put us into?

We don’t like a nail that sticks up.  So our habit teaches us to hammer it down.

In persistent issues, for example, unemployment at a national level is the “nail”, is unpleasant and notoriously, stays up.  This is despite efforts over time from different sides to bring down the problem.  This is what is meant by a persistent problem.

However, hammering at them today does not mean that they will not require hammering again tomorrow.  This is also not just about beating the competition or the market’s volatility to gain quickly.  They too are hammering at their end.  Sometimes, when we don’t see the consequences of our actions, they cause the nail at our end to stick back up again.


What if we say, the intent of systems thinking is to recognize such persistent issues and learn to turn them around Issues that recur or resist and become increasingly harder to reduce their effects with time are the classical reinforcing causal loops at play.  At every iteration, the intensity of the reinforcing causal loop increases.

Think of when you begin to push the wheels of the bicycle.  We know inherently that at each iteration of the wheel, it takes on the energy we have pushed onto it and the energy of the wheel in motion now makes it easier for us to push it again the next time.  That is the classic behavior of the reinforcing causal loop.

Each of the ten system archetypes that Peter Senge and his team have identified to date describes different sets of these reinforcing loops and explains most cases of dynamic complexities that we face in the world today.  The key to understanding system archetypes is recognizing the nature of the reinforcing causal loop within each one of them.  They may be fuelled either by not seeing unintended consequences or realizing how the other party would react or the impact an action or correction at one end of the “system” creates a limit at another part of it, and so on.

What if we also say, that the tools of The Fifth Discipline can help you understand the nature (or systemic causes) of its resistance and then learn to reverse their effects?  What if we further add, that SoLs globally can now work with national and inter-nation bodies to work with clients who own such issues to do the above?  Would this interest you?

We believe you are here because you are already dealing with such issues and believe that the work of the Fifth Discipline can help you.

Reinforcing causal loops acts either positively or negatively.

The catch is this.  The less more of us “see and understand” these vicious natures and the laws that govern them, the more negatively these causal loops behave.  That is the reason these causal loops have at the same time dominated and escaped us.  Their vicious nature keeps us glued to events that they trigger, like dominos.  And like dominos, we sometimes become floored by them, often triggered by our own actions.  Just distant in space and therefore time.  It becomes harder to see.  That is unless we train our eyes to see these effects.

The good news is, they are reversible.  Completely.  And often this means, all parts of the system will achieve their goals, not at the expense of others and even one’s own other goals.  Everything is possible.  Notice the less man interferes the more abundant the forest is.  Nature teaches us that all needs can be met. That is provided we respect the order in which causality happens.

The gift of The Fifth Discipline is an opportunity to learn as a group (therefore called Learning organizations) and discover what our eyes and mind have deceived us into thinking. That not all goals and needs will be met as we get pulled and pushed by our fears of losing to each other.  When we focus on events, as they come rolling out at us, with time they lead our minds and emotions into adopting such beliefs as true.

However, as we recognize our fears and learn to let them go, we become better at stepping back from the trees (and events) to see these causal loops (or forests or systems thinking) at play otherwise referred to us as the underlying causal structures.  We do this with the help of the disciplines of mental models, personal mastery, and team learning.  As we see and surface these causal loops, we are now positioned to reverse them.  Together.  As teams, organizations, communities, nations, and the globe.

When we integrate the five disciplines and all their masculine and feminine qualities as one, within each of us, we see these persistent issues better.  When, however, the five disciplines stay separate, they will lead us to swing from one end to the other till we learn to bring them together as one.  That is now a shared vision. That is why Senge referred to the five as the disciplines. When they become a part of our nature, their gifts are now opened to us.

Till we learn this simple trick, resistant issues will continue to dominate us.  Unfortunately, Learning Organisations have been mistaken to mean how well I can please my superiors by showing what I have learned or what they have decided to teach me.  Therefore, I must be a good performer and therefore deserve the rewards that are passed for meeting each compliance.

Nothing can be further than the truth.  These are the remnants of thinking passed from the Industrial Age originating in the military.  They form the very anti-theses of Learning Organisations.

What are examples of persistent issues we face in our world today?  Here is a list of the current set of issues that affect the globe:  The top few for me that has underlying vicious circles of causality at play include: global cooperation, climate change, food generation, and what is so far unspoken, gender understanding underlies the remaining issues on the list.

What is a global issue that you are grappling with?


If what we have written here interests you, or know someone who does and is the owner of working at turning some of these issues around nationally, regionally, or globally, write to us your interest to know more about what we are doing and join our monthly sessions where we share teaser sessions on the use of the tools of the work and their practices in real-life situations such as understanding and turning around national unemployment in Botswana.  Email:

We leave with quotes by Einstein to keep you company for the holidays and inspire you to your own greatness.  Happy holidays everyone!

“He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.”

“Although I am a typical loner in daily life, my consciousness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice has preserved me from feeling isolated.”

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Author:  Ms Sheila Damodaran (