The Fifth Discipline

There is no book that I have recommended more than Peter Senge’s “The Fifth Discipline: The Art And Practice Of The Learning Organization.” It’s a bit abstract, however, abstract thinking is an important skill to develop and I would encourage you to struggle through it.

The fifth discipline is systems thinking. Systems thinking is the ability to “see the big picture,” to understand cause and effect, and to know how to take actions that will produce significant and lasting results. I firmly believe that anyone who masters the discipline of systems thinking will be a much better leader than someone who only sees their situations as snapshots.

Bret L. Simmons: The Fifth Discipline from Bret Simmons on Vimeo.

My copy of Senge’s book was given to me in 1994 by my mentor, Mary A. Newman.  Mary was one of the professors I met during my master’s degree studies. Not only did Mary turn me on to systems thinking, she was also the one that encouraged me to go on and get my Ph.D. – something I had never even considered doing before I met her.

I did not know it in 1994, but I see clearly now that Mary helped change the trajectory of my life. If I had never met Mary, I am certain that I would not be writing the blog post you are reading right now. Before I met Mary, I never considered that professors could be friends with their students. Now that I am a professor myself, I count several of my former students as good friends.  Mary and I have been friends now for over 16 years.

We can only see how people changed our lives by looking in our rear-view mirrors. When it becomes clear to you that someone had a profound effect on your life, make sure to take the time to find them and thank them.

Always be aware of how things you do for others in the course of your life might seem small at the time but could end up having a huge impact. When you give yourself to others simply for the opportunity to help them in some small way, you become truly remarkable.

Don’t miss the big picture. If you want to have a remarkable brand a year from now, you have to behave like a remarkable person today.


Bret Simmons is an Assistant Professor of Management in the College of Business at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), where he teaches courses in organizational behavior, leadership, and personal branding to both undergraduate and MBA students. He has a Ph.D. in Business Administration from Oklahoma State University. Bret practices personal branding at his website Positive Organizational Behavior where he blogs about leadership, followership, and personal branding. His purpose is “to change your mind about the value of partnering with others to build healthy, responsible organizations where everyone can thrive.” You can also find Bret on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin.

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One Response to “The Fifth Discipline”

  1. [...] new post is up at The Student Branding Blog. In this post, I recommend Peter Senge’s classic book “The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of [...]

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