Peter Senge observed in his book that we often make fragments of a whole to understand all the fragments separately, so that we collectively understand the whole at the end. However, he argued by quoting physicist David Bohm that the task is futile— similar to trying to reassemble the fragments of a broken mirror to see a true reflection. Thus, after a while, we give up trying to see the whole altogether. This is where he felt the need for a Systems Thinking, where the whole organization is viewed as an entity of connected systems.
What is the value addition of “systems approach” to branding? Once you keep watching the impact of design, style, feature, production process, quality control, quality of human resources, financial strengths, R&D and innovation budget, and the process of strategic control, obviously the branding failure can be traced to any of the departments, if not to the brand professionals who are not looking beyond their own department. Marketers are the front-end soldiers, who need a huge backup from departments behind the scene. Any failure in systems thinking will raise the odds of front-end soldiers to fail.
Second, by the term “personal mastery”, Peter Senge referred to the level of individual proficiency in certain skills. In his words, “People with a high level of personal mastery are able to consistently realize the results that matter most deeply to them— in effect, they approach their life as an artist would approach a work of art.” This lifelong learning of individuals collectively reflects in the learning of the organization, because learning of an organization is nothing but the learning of all its members. The impact of sharing this learning, when comes to branding, refers to assigning the right person to the right place, while mentoring, growing, and sustaining next generation of managers who would be taking the charge of situation later. If this does not happen, any brand’s success will gradually be centered around “individual”, and not the “organization process”.
Third, “mental models” refer to how we presume, perceive, and act based on our pre-conceived view of the world around us. This is an already fixed set of variables that defines our ways, the set that we feel really comfortable to be in and stay without much intervention. When comes to branding, it refers to feeling “right” whatever we think to be right. Failing to challenge a pre-conceived set of variables will perhaps block the avenue of creative thinking, if not complete branding failure.
Fourth, by the term “Shared Vision”, Peter Senge referred to the idea of translating and connecting corporate goals in such a way to individuals and groups so that they feel themselves to be a part of it. It is, as if, the individuals and groups participated in the development of goals that turn out to be corporate goals as well. What happens when people get involved in goal setting is that, they start feeling themselves as an integral part of the goal, which results in additional commitment to achieve that goal, and not mere compliance. It necessarily strengthens the team effort when it comes to branding.
Finally, “team learning” refers to a stimulating process of learning among group members where they learn to suspend their individualistic learning and self-keeping attitude, and strive more towards free flowing of information within the group, allowing the members to find insights impossible to attain through individual thinking. Personal mastery will not be fruitful unless this team learning attitude can be put to place. This team learning not only enhances the capacity of brand management teams, but also increases the interchangeability and flexibility of any team member to be included in any other team that might need superior support.
Above all, Peter Senge went back to Systems thinking, and defined it as the fifth discipline, that connects the dots of all the interacting systems that ultimately leads to the gain of competitive advantage. Competitive advantage, itself being dynamic in nature, will belong to those who not only learn, but also learn faster than their competitors. Without these five elements of an organization, an organization can still learn, but not fast enough to outwit the competition.