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Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change…

Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations, and… (2004)

by Peter Senge, Betty Sue Flowers, Joseph Jaworski, C. Otto Scharmer

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494231,312 (3.79)2



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For a rational lover of non-fiction by Dawkins, Diamond and the like, reading this book caused a lot of aggravation. The basic message is maybe okay, though it does feel like a course for MBTI "S"s on how to become more of an intuitive "N".
The tone is intolerably smug, and factoids that are supposed to underpin certain outlandish theories are often given without reference to any reliable source. The American-centric point of view provides ludicrous distortions, such as in the passage where the authors discuss how on Sep 11, RNGs (random number generators) across the world started spouting non-random, correlated numbers because they sensed that humanity was suffering. As if that admittedly awful event was the greatest suffering that humanity ever knew.
I'll admit "natural mystique" experiences can feel very real, but here they are presented as attempts of a volitional universe to communicate with humans. The weather also communicates with us, eg when thunder strikes, it is the universe communicating with us and blessing our meeting, etc etc.
If the author of all this communication were described as a monotheistic deity, this book would be immediately dismissed. Since in this book the prime agent is described in new-agey fashion as the 'universe', some gullible people will find this inspirational (indeed, one of them recommended this book to me - I'll know what to do what any future recommendations by this person).
In short, I hated it. I filed this under "drivel" and "comfort for small minds" ( )
  fist | Jan 24, 2012 |
Going to have to read some more Senge after this one. ( )
  red.yardbird | Jul 20, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Peter Sengeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Flowers, Betty Suemain authorall editionsconfirmed
Jaworski, Josephmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Scharmer, C. Ottomain authorall editionsconfirmed
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It's common to say that trees come from seeds. But how could a tiny seed create a huge tree? Seeds do not contain the resources needed to grow a tree. These must come from the medium or environments within which the tree grows. But the seed does provide something that is crucial: a place where the whole of the tree starts to form. As resources such as water and nutrients are drawn in, the seed organizes the process that generates growth. In a sense, the seed is a gatewaythrough which the future possibility of the living tree emerges.
Dedicated to the memory of Francisco J. Varela
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(Introduction) Although the four of us come from quite different backgrounds, we do share one thing in common: we have all been part of extraordinary moments of of collective awakening, and seen the consequent changes in large social systems.
The four of us were witting in a circle in the study of Otto's home on Maple Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 038551624X, Hardcover)

Presence can be read as a both a guide and a challenge to leaders in business, education, and government to transform their institutions into powerful agents of change in a world increasingly out of balance. Since business is the most powerful institution in the world today, the authors argue, it must play a key role in solving global societal problems. Yet so many institutions seem to run people rather than the other way around. In this illuminating book, the authors seek to understand why people don't change systems and institutions even when they pose a threat to society, and examine why institutional change is so difficult to attain.

The authors view large institutions such as global corporations as a new species that are affecting nearly all other life forms on the planet. Rather than look at these systems as merely the extension of a few hyper-powerful individuals, they see them as a dynamic organisms with the potential to learn, grow, and evolve--but only if people exert control over them and actively eliminate their destructive aspects. "But until that potential is activated," they write, "industrial age institutions will continue to expand blindly, unaware of their part in a larger whole or of the consequences of their growth." For global institutions to be recreated in positive ways, there must be individual and collective levels of awareness, followed by direct action. Raising this awareness is what Presence seeks to achieve. Drawing on the insights gleaned from interviews with over 150 leading scientists, social leaders, and entrepreneurs, the authors emphasize what they call the "courage to see freshly"--the ability to view familiar problems from a new perspective in order to better understand how parts and wholes are interrelated.

This is not a typical business book. Mainly theoretical, it does not offer specific tips that organizational managers or directors can apply immediately; rather, it offers powerful tools and ideas for changing the mindset of leaders and unlocking the latent potential to "develop awareness commensurate with our impact, wisdom in balance with our power." --Shawn Carkonen

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:50 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"The first three parts of the book correspond to the process of deepening collective learning as we have come to understand it. This starts with learning to see, moves on to opening to a new awareness of what is emerging and our part in it, and finally leads to action that spontaneously serves and is supported by the evolving whole. The fourth and final section places this deeper learning in the context of a more integrative science, spirituality, and practice of leadership." --introd.… (more)

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