Starting New Businesses and the Effect of Competition

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"The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage." - Arie De Geus, Head of Planning, Royal Dutch/Shell

The subject deals with the management of businesses in new environments where in one market or geographic area companies may compete against one another and in another market/region these competitors are partners or have formed an alliance or act as one entity in a joint-venture. Collaborations, alliances and industry networks are becoming more the norm in the global arena, especially in developing markets. Managers need to be able to understand and manage in systems of change within organisations, the value chain and the environments they operate in. The subject integrates the emerging need for the learning organisation and systems thinking which creates more flexible business structures. In addition, this subject encourages students to analyse the reasons behind some of these formations, and the implications on regions where these exist. The subject further looks at the HR dynamics as well as the new organisational behaviour that is spawned by matrix, inter-related and networked businesses which requires understanding by the modern manager.

Since I first read Peter Senge's seminal work on organizational learning, I felt that his thoughts were something that students of business management should take to heart, but have never had the opportunity to introduce them into a class. So, this semester you and I will all be learning whether or not Systems Thinking, that is, the Fifth Discipline of Senge's title, can indeed be taught in a business school.

As the concepts in this class may be quite different from the way we've been learning management up unto this point, it is vital that you have the chapters read prior to coming to the class.

Subject Learning Outcomes

Subject Learning Outcomes

Related Content / Assessment

Increase your levels of awareness, knowledge, understanding and competencies leading to improved effectiveness as managers and advisors

Exams, Learning Journal

Understanding of system thinking and the disciplines involved in creating learning organisations

Exams, Beer Game

Knowledge and understanding of internal and external linkages/relationships in networks

Beer Game, Exams, Learning Journal

Opportunities and synergies gained from collaborations, strategic alliances, innovative networks and clusters in global markets

Exams, Learning Journal

Subject Readings and Resources

Prescribed Texts (Compulsory)

Senge, Peter M. 1990. The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. New York: Doubleday

Senge, Peter M., et al. 1994. The Fifth Discipline Field book: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization. New York: Doubleday.

Other Resources

The Fifth Discipline Field book Project:

Assessment Details

1. The Beer Game (10%)

The Beer Game is an experiential exercise meant to demonstrate system thinking in a more concrete way than classroom discussion. In order to perform this exercise, we will have to schedule one class period (including the tutorial) for us to meet-that everyone will be at. We'll talk about that on the first day of class. I will provide you with a description and the necessary directions on the day.

2. Presentation (5%)

This will be a maximum of 20 minute presentation on an example of a learning organisation in practice. This is a group assignment and students will be allocated to a group to complete this component of the assessment. You should reflect on this process in your learning journals reflective component.

3. Exams (30% of total marks each)

There will be two essay exams as scheduled; an On-Course Exam and a Final Exam.

3. Lecture Reflections (10marks)/Learning Journals (10 marks)/workbook exercises (5 marks) = (25% of Total marks)

Keeping a journal is a meant to be a reflective process, that is, it is a record of your thoughts, feelings, reactions and interpretations of the learning taking place. It is not meant to be a recapitulation or retelling of the class material. However, I am going to ask you to add a section to your journal for this purpose. The folks at Harvard found a few years ago, that if students would take about 5-10 minutes at the end of each lecture and write a recap of the class lessons for the day, that retention and absorption were greatly improved. So, each day, at the end of class, I expect each one of you to write what you your thoughts, feelings and reflections were during the lecture. These are to be turned in before you leave for the day. These are meant to be reflective in nature, not a recitation of the PowerPoint!

The rest of the journal will be composed of your thoughts and reflections on the topic of learning organizations as you study and explore the topic during your non-contact time. This must be completed each week and turned in at the start of class. This about your personal thoughts about your progress in acquiring the five disciplines. Note that it is a reflective journal; I am interested in what you are thinking about what your have read and reviewed rather than a recitation of the facts you have read or reviewed!

Finally you are required to undertake particular exercises from The Fifth Discipline Field book.

This is a regular opportunity to reflect on the question, "What does ______mean to me?" and to explore how your own life experiences, assumptions and sensibilities inform and connect to your readings. Try to be comfortable with your own confusions. Use the journal to probe your thinking, not to prove anything.

Some helpful starters for your journal entries might be:

"I really don't understand________ because…" or

"I think the relationship between ______ and ______ is interesting because…" or

"These ideas remind me of the ideas in (another reading) because…"


As you work your way through the Field book you'll need to do the exercises that I have listed in the schedule. If you wish to do any that I have not listed, that is up to you. You'll notice that some of the exercises require a partner, while a few others are group exercises. Thus, you need to find yourself both a partner and a group to work the exercises with.

A report on each of the required exercises should appear in your Learning Journal and submitted in class each week when they are due.

Submitting Written Assignments:

There is no such thing as a late assignment. Unless otherwise noted, all assignments are due at the beginning of class on the date cited. Exceptions are only made in cases of emergencies. Hand in all work to the instructor, in class.

Style counts: both for written and oral presentations. If you haven't been a slave to style so far, it's time. The way things look, they way they sound, whether they are well written, well organized, how you look, and so on, all count. You may have the best ideas in the world, but if you come off as unlettered, not many people are likely to take you very seriously. I'm no English major, so if your errors are obvious to me, they will be obvious to almost anyone-and they count. If your report is particularly ungrammatical, and has not even been spellchecked, I will take 20% off the top even before I begin reading it.

I highly recommend owning a style manual to help with this. I suggest purchasing The Elements of Style by Strunk and White as a handy reference. It's also available online at: Another valuable reference would be Lynne Truss' excellent Eats, Shoots and Leaves, which is a grammar and punctuation guide.

Lecture Schedule



Week 1

22 July


Lecture Reflection 1 Due

Week 2

29 July

Part I: How our actions create our reality…and how we can change it.

(Note: Don't read Chapter 3 until afterthe Beer Game!)

Lecture Reflection 2 Due

Learning journal 1 Due

Week 3

5 Aug

Part II The Cornerstone of the Learning Organization

Lecture Reflection 3 Due

Learning Journal 2 Due (as part of your learning journal comment on your reading of the Field Book (FB): section on Dialogue, pp. 357-81)

Week 4

12 Aug

The Beer Game

Lecture Reflection 4 Due

Learning Journal 3 Due

Field Book exercise: Defining Your Learning, pp: 50-52 FB Due

Week 5

19 Aug

Part III: The Core Disciplines: Building the learning organization-Personal Mastery and Mental Models

Lecture Reflection 5 Due

Learning Journal 4 Due

Field Book exercise: 5 Whys, pp: 109-110 FB Due

Week 6

26 Aug

On Course Exam

Learning Journal 5 Due

Lecture Reflection 6 Due

Week 7

2 Sept

Part III: The Core Disciplines: Building the learning organization

Learning Journal 6 Due

Lecture Reflection 7 Due

Week 8

9 Sept

Part III: The Core Disciplines:- Shared Vision Team Learning

Learning Journal 7 Due

Lecture Reflection 8 Due

Field Book Exercise: Systems Sleuth, pp: 151-156 FB Due

Week 9

16 Sept

Part IV: Prototypes

Lecture Reflection 9 Due

Learning Journal 8 Due

Field Book: Left Hand Column, pp: 246-250 FB Due

Week 10

23 Sept

Group Presentations

Learning Journal 9 Due

Week 11

30 Sept

Part V: Coda

Lecture Reflection 10 Due

Learning Journal 10 Due

Field Book: Organizational Gridlock, pp: 169-172 FB Due

Week 12

7 Oct

Exam Review

Week 13

14 Oct

Study Week No Class

18 October - 12 November

Final Exam during Exam Period

Important Policies & Processes

Referencing and Plagiarism

Plagiarism occurs when writers claim ownership of written words or ideas that are not their own. Plagiarism is a form of cheating and any instances of plagiarism will be dealt with promptly according to University procedures. Instances of student academic misconduct is handled using a four stage procedure: Stage 1: Referral of the allegation; Stage 2: Preliminary investigation; Stage 3: Hearing; Stage 4: Appeal. If plagiarism is detected, the lecturer will immediately notify the Head of School in writing. The Head of School is then responsible for further actions, and will notify you of their decisions about the penalties.

Working together, discussing ideas, or helping one another with references is fine. However, the piece of work that you finally submit for assessment must be your own. It should contain your ideas and your assessment of other people's ideas, and be written in your own words.

The procedures for dealing with collusion, collaboration, plagiarism, and cheating general are set out in the latest JCU Student Handbook at:

It is important that you reference your work correctly. The Endeavour discusses plagiarism and provides examples of appropriate ways to reference your work. In the School of Business different disciplines may require different ways of referencing your sources, but in general most subjects within the school will use the APA (American Psychological Association) Style. Please confirm this with your lecturer.

Graduate Skills & Qualities

Graduate Skills

Related Content / Assessment

Literacy and Numeracy

1.1 the ability to read complex and demanding texts accurately, critically and insightfully


1.2 the ability to speak and write clearly, coherently and creatively

Learning Journal

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

3.1 the ability to think critically, to analyse and evaluate claims, evidence and arguments, and to reason and deploy evidence clearly and logically

Learning Journal, Exams, Beer Game

3.2 the ability to adapt knowledge to new situations

Beer Game, Learning Journal

3.3 the ability to deploy critically evaluated information to practical ends

Beer Game

3.4 the ability to define and to solve problems in at least one discipline area

Beer Game, Learning Journal

Self Reliance and Interpersonal Understanding

4.2 the ability to lead, manage and contribute effectively to teams

Beer Game

4.4 the ability to work individually and independently

Learning Journal

Learning Achievement

6.1 the acquisition of coherent and disciplined sets of skills, knowledge, values and professional ethics from at least one discipline area


6.2 the ability to reflect on and evaluate learning, and to learn independently in a self directed manner

Learning Journal

6.3 the ability to manage future career and personal development

Learning Journal

Personal Graduate Qualities

Related Content / Assessment

â-ª a commitment to lifelong learning and intellectual development

Learning Journal