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Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations, and Society Hardcover – Aug 16 2005

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business (Aug. 16 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038551624X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385516242
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 2.5 x 23.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #35,606 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

Critical Acclaim for Presence

“A remarkable book, Presence is a journey from the present to an unknown future, a journey of exploration rather than dogma, and a journey toward a vision of humanity at its highest. Like a good documentary film, Presence is a book with ‘emotional truth,’ a wonderful combination of intellectual and visceral experience.”
—Robert Fritz, author of The Path of Least Resistance

“At this turbulent juncture in human history, a whole new set of social innovations promises to shift humanity away from its destructive path towards a brighter planetary civilization. Presencing and its U process is one of the most profound. It provides all who want to change the world not only with profound hope, but with a systematic and effective way to birth a sustainable planetary society.”
—Nicanor Perlas, recipient of the 2003 Alternative Nobel Prize and the U.N. Environmental Program Global 500 Award

“If you believe, as I do, that an organization is ultimately a human community, then nothing is more important than how we sense our future and act to create it together. This is something all creative business leaders know yet have found almost impossible to talk about—until Presence.”
—Rich Teerlink, CEO (retired), Harley-Davidson

“Presence is a timely and altogether important book. Drawing on a leading-edge understanding of human learning and awareness, it offers a simple but effective getaway to our capacity to become change agents of the future—in business, work, play, and relationships. Finding our presence is finding the key to creative change and to our own future.”
—Ken Wilber, author of A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science, and Spirituality

“Presence is remarkable in at least three ways. First, the authors’ work has extraordinary emotional, as well as intellectual impact; it continued to affect me long after my initial reading. Second, I found that the insights I gleaned from the work depended on what was happening around me. I suspect I will take away different messages each time I read it. Third, the authors somehow opened me to unexpected messages and opportunities in my own life. My reading of Presence coincided with many seemingly chance encounters that in very real and specific ways have been essential to my own work, helping me find new ways to connect with colleagues, customers, and the larger community.”
—Darcy Winslow, General Manager, Global Women’s Footwear, Apparel, Equipment, Nike, Inc.

From the Inside Flap

"Presence is an intimate look at the development of a new theory about change and learning. In wide-ranging conversations held over a year and a half, organizational learning pioneers Peter Senge, C. Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, and Betty Sue Flowers explored the nature of transformational change--how it arises, and the fresh possibilities it offers a world dangerously out of balance. The book introduces the idea of "presence"--a concept borrowed from the natural world that the whole is entirely present in any of its parts--to the worlds of business, education, government, and leadership. Too often, the authors found, we remain stuck in old patterns of seeing and acting. By encouraging deeper levels of learning, we create an awareness of the larger whole, leading to actions that can help to shape its evolution and our future.
Drawing on the wisdom and experience of 150 scientists, social leaders, and entrepreneurs, including Brian Arthur, Rupert Sheldrake, Buckminster Fuller, Lao Tzu, and Carl Jung, "Presence is both revolutionary in its exploration and hopeful in its message. This astonishing and completely original work goes on to define the capabilities that underlie our ability to see, sense, and realize new possibilities--in ourselves, in our institutions and organizations, and in society itself.

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Format: Hardcover
Presence is a most unusual book. If you have read Synchronicity by Joseph Jaworski (one of the co-authors of Presence), that will give you a hint of what's to come. The book is much different than Peter Senge's usual fare so fasten your seat belt and get ready for a soulful ride to places and thoughts that you have probably never considered before.

The book is built around a series of conversations that the four co-authors had in the home of co-author C. Otto Scharmer in Cambridge, Massachusetts over a little more than a year that covered their mutual concern that humanity is headed for a bad end. They first explored whether focusing people on a lose-lose scenario in which everything goes kaput would help solve the problem. Gradually, they came to realize that there seems to be a better method for redirecting humanity through a form of collective deep learning that groups can do to grasp a more meaningful and pertinent direction for their organizations and themselves.

Much of the book then develops a theory of a process for group learning called the theory of the U. The process has three basic steps: 1. observing, observing, and observing until you begin to see your situation from being deeply connected to it so that you sense its true nature 2. presencing, which is being with the situation until a deeper form of knowing evolves (think of this as creating the epiphany) and 3. realizing, which is moving to make your epiphany real.

The book has several powerful stories of how this process has worked with groups. I especially liked the story about how the medical personnel and the patients described medical care as being "quick fix" oriented while both sets of people really wanted to provide and experience deeper counseling and coaching care with one another.
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Format: Paperback
Fine and evocative work - I particularly loved the evocative description of the Vision Fast work undertaken by one of the authors with John Milton. One quibble I have with the book is what seems to be an unwillingness to explicitly acknowledge the Buddhist roots of some of the ideas contained therein. Otherwise, thoughtfuly, thought provoking and inspiring.
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really surprising
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars 87 reviews
79 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "We need to see the world anew." Feb. 22 2005
By Bill Godfrey - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Presence is reflective and discursive, with a lot of forays into philosophical thinking and developments in scientific theory. It is probably well pitched to its primary audience of members of the Society for Organizational Learning and the organizational learning community generally. Others, who are more used to a diet of "how to's", sidebars, summaries and highlighted key points are likely to find it hard going.

However, these are probably precisely the people who most need to absorb the ideas in the book. I have a feeling that, just as the ideas in The Fifth Discipline did not really gain wide acceptance until after the companion The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook appeared, we may need some sort of Presence Fieldbook to support Presence. That would also allow inclusion of material by other authors that seems to be highly relevant, for example Howard Gardner's concept of stories and counter-stories (set out in Leading Minds) and some of the ideas in Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point on what it is that makes new ideas catch on and his more recent Blink on intuition.

The authors' central question is "How do we individually and collectively bring about useful change in circumstances where the past, and established ways of thinking, are not good guides to the future?" If, as the authors believe, globalization, the exponentially growing impact of humans on the environment, and the overwhelming power and influence of a small number of global corporations have produced a situation in which accepted ways of thinking and acting are no longer appropriate, what are the appropriate ways of thinking and acting and how do we learn them, get them accepted and promote their widespread adoption? Is this an issue only for those in 'positions of power', or can all of us make a difference?

The book takes the form of passages of narrative interspersed with conversations in symposium form. The result is a discursive, but valuable, journey into identifying the right questions and approaches to achieving sustainable answers. The subject is overwhelmingly important and the way it is treated is useful and illuminating. Much of its appeal derives from the fact that the four authors are skilled in the art of dialogue and wide-ranging conversation and have complementary skills and experiences.

Many of the conversations build on themes that have been attracting growing attention. The themes can be grouped broadly as:

* those concerned with identifying the issues, why they are matters of concern and what it is about current thinking and approaches to solving them that makes them worse rather than better. These centre on impacts on the environment and the disparities of wealth around the world and the limitations of the analytical and linear approach to problem identification and solutions;

* those concerned with the implications of systemicity and complexity, in particular the need to perceive the whole rather than focusing on parts. These elements of the conversations draw extensively on insights of the economist W. Brian Lewis, and broader aspects of complexity theory; and

* those concerned with holistic ways of perceiving, reflecting on and responding to issues and the conditions necessary for emergence among an empowered group of a radical new understanding of an issue, and shared enthusiasm for concerted action. These themes draw heavily on Eastern philosophies, on systems theory and our growing experience of deliberate use of dialogue, reflection and democratic forms of group process and networking.

The authors build up a picture of an idea - a way of 'seeing the world anew' and a process that will help individuals and groups to move through the profound shifts in ways of thinking and communicating needed to move forward. This is expressed in the theory of the "U Movement", the development and exposition of which forms the central organizing principle for the book, particularly Parts 2 through 4. The elements of the theory are most concisely shown in a chart on page 225. It is a process in three stages.

The first stage, Sensing, is concerned with standing back from our accustomed way of seeing and dealing with issues, through processes of profound reflection and a focus on the whole.

The second (Presencing) is identified as the most difficult both to explain and to experience: it is (at least in part) a profound transformation from the deeply inbuilt Western view of the self as operator on an external world to an understanding of our role as one agent in the emergence of an unfolding future. Chapter 7 contains a number of examples and anecdotes to try to convey the feeling of this transformation: it is not surprising that the printed word is not wholly successful in conveying something which really has to be experienced.

The third (Realizing) is based on the thesis that it is the profound (collective) change in stage 2 that results in shared clarity as to how to move forward through three sub-stages towards full implementation.

The argument of the book as a whole asserts that total reliance on dispassionate analytical rationalism is a sure path to the wrong answer and that we (individually and collectively) need to find ways to see the wholeness of life and to use our hearts and our intuition to become "part of a future that is seeking to unfold". The authors contrive to bring together a good deal of evidence that such a transformation has valuable practical consequences as well as providing for a much more satisfying personal life for those who can make the transformation.

While this world view is still radical, at least in business circles, it is not new but is rather a part of a growing movement. The authors take a valuable further step both in explaining why a change is necessary and in sketching an approach to learning the profound transformations in perspective that are needed.
50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not For Everyone Jan. 7 2007
By Bill Veltrop - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
That this book is not for everyone is quite clear from the mix of reviews.

So, why am I giving it five stars?

I can measure of the value (to me) of a non-fiction book by the amount of "damage" I've inflicted in terms of annotations, turned-up page corners, highlighting and underlining. By this measure Presence easily earned all five of my stars.

Where am I coming from?

I've been involved with large corporations for over 50 years and have focused on organizational learning, design and change for over 30 years. Though I deeply respect the miracle of large organizations, I'm also convinced that they're at a very early stage of their evolution. As I see it, our corporations and other major institutions have only reached adolescence, at best. Some might argue that they're at an even earlier stage of development. Considering how our systems are collectively fouling their nest they've got a point.

James Carse, in his wonderful book, Finite and Infinite Games, suggests:

There are at least two kinds of games.

One could be called finite, the other infinite.

The finite game is played for the purpose of winning,

an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play,

...and bringing as many persons as possible into the play.

Finite players play within boundaries;

infinite players play with boundaries.

In the last several decades it's become increasingly clear that our various institutions are collectively engaged in devastatingly finite games. Our western culture tends to most reward players who master finite games, e.g., in business, sports, entertainment, communications and politics.

As I see it, the future of life on our planet is dependent on our developing the capacities needed to make the journey, as a collective, from finite to infinite games. This is new territory for us as a species. We have no maps.

Senge, Scharmer, Jaworski and Flowers have given us a unique multifaceted gift--a beginning map. The following three facets of this gift were particularly important to me:

1. I get to sit in on a dialogue involving four highly informed and deeply committed "infinite players" as they share those aspects of their journeys that seem most relevant to our larger journey as a species. I respect the unique gifts that each brings to this conversation and enjoyed the unfolding process.

2. Their "Theory of U" has legs. I'm excited about the huge implications it has for the fields of organizational learning, design, change and leadership development. It describes seven special learning capacities that leaders, and the systems they serve, will need to master if we are, to use David Korten's language, to make the shift from the "Great Unraveling" to "The Great Turning." The seven capacities all seem foundational to our shifting from finite to infinite games.

3. I greatly appreciate their picturing our great learning journey as necessarily involving both inner and systemic work every step of the way: "As within, so without. As without, so within."

I very much look forward to Otto Scharmer's forthcoming book, Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges. I understand that it builds on Presencing and makes Theory U more accessible to and useful for practitioners in the field.
78 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Developing the Deep and Lasting Group Epiphany Aug. 21 2004
By Donald Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Presence is a most unusual book. If you have read Synchronicity by Joseph Jaworski (one of the co-authors of Presence), that will give you a hint of what's to come. The book is much different than Peter Senge's usual fare so fasten your seat belt and get ready for a soulful ride to places and thoughts that you have probably never considered before.

The book is built around a series of conversations that the four co-authors had in the home of co-author C. Otto Scharmer in Cambridge, Massachusetts over a little more than a year that covered their mutual concern that humanity is headed for a bad end. They first explored whether focusing people on a lose-lose scenario in which everything goes kaput would help solve the problem. Gradually, they came to realize that there seems to be a better method for redirecting humanity through a form of collective deep learning that groups can do to grasp a more meaningful and pertinent direction for their organizations and themselves.

Much of the book then develops a theory of a process for group learning called the theory of the U. The process has three basic steps: 1. observing, observing, and observing until you begin to see your situation from being deeply connected to it so that you sense its true nature 2. presencing, which is being with the situation until a deeper form of knowing evolves (think of this as creating the epiphany) and 3. realizing, which is moving to make your epiphany real.

The book has several powerful stories of how this process has worked with groups. I especially liked the story about how the medical personnel and the patients described medical care as being "quick fix" oriented while both sets of people really wanted to provide and experience deeper counseling and coaching care with one another. The group seemed to instantly coalesce about making the common desire real.

I felt like I could relate to the process and the supporting examples having seen a similar response in groups over my career. There's an unspoken consensus in every organization that is often invisible to the participants because their relationships exist on only a superficial basis. If you ask them individually about their deepest desires and hopes for the organization and themselves, another reality emerges. If you then expose that reality in a group meeting to each other, they immediately begin to act on that new reality. I've been running sessions like this for more than 25 years and find it to be a profoundly moving experience. I was glad to see the work that The Society for Organizational Learning is doing to expand upon this form of change management.

If you are interested in learning another way to apply this process, you might want to look at a book I co-authored, The 2,000 Percent Solution and the 8 step process in part two. The first four steps relate to observing. The second two steps relate to presencing. The final two steps are about realizing. This process can be applied by either an individual or a group.

Presence is filled with many other wonderful stories and questions. I particularly enjoyed the part about the future of science and how that discipline needs to expand to encompass the spiritual . . . and how many scientists are privately doing this.

As I read the book, I was reminded also of a novel I just read and reviewed, Diving the Seamount, that develops many of the same themes as in this book: We are increasingly living our lives separate from one another and from nature. We can only heal our society, ourselves and our world when we reconnect with one another and nature. Interestingly, both books talk about Baja California as a physical source for this learning.

The book also describes some wonderful places to visit and I quickly added them to my list. I'm sure you will, too.

Presence ends up with a consideration of how the gorilla will do after man is gone. I took that question differently than the authors did. They seemed to miss the full impact of the question. First, man may replace himself with something new through biotechnology and evolution related to space exploration. How will the gorilla do with the replacement? Second, if man is gone, will the gorilla evolve to have all of our bad habits . . . and doom themselves?

If you like powerful books about being, what learning is and important questions about existence, you will love Presence. The authors take a nonsectarian view toward spiritual questions, drawing on many different traditions. I felt like I was reading The Golden Bough in places.

If you like your perspectives neatly tied into a bow with specific action prescriptions, this book will annoy you. But perhaps the annoyance will help you learn. The authors don't feel they know the answers, so they have just revealed the journey that took them to where they are. I recommend the journey to you.
57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and hopeful July 15 2004
By David Barnoski - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In these times of negative job creation, CEOs in handcuffs, morally bankrupt managers, and administration-sanctioned environmental debacles, it is refreshing to read something as hopeful as this book. The four co-authors bring their own unique viewpoints to this exploration of human potential, and I don't think there's been anything like it since Margaret Wheatley's "Leadership and the New Science," which was easily the most important business book of the 1990s.
I have long admired Peter Senge and his various books. Not one word ever seems excessive, not one book offers anything less than thought-provoking, rigorous argument.
This is not a book to skim; one has to read it straight through to get the most out of this thoughtful, immediately engaging book. I would love to see corporations buy it in quantity and INSIST that their managers read it, discuss it, and post reviews on their intranets -- just as they do in Japan.
169 of 193 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Smart, Self-Absorbed Taped Conversation Unlinked to Work of Others Sept. 18 2005
By Robert David STEELE Vivas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a fairly annoying book if you are at all well-read, and especially so if you read Charles Hampden-Turner's Radical Man: The Process of Psycho-Social Development. in the 1970's and are familiar with a sampling of Eastern "connectedness" thought as well as the range of human and global problems and solutions literature running from the Club of Rome to the econological economics of Herman Daly to the integrative science and humanities of E.O. Wilson and Margaret Wheatley to the World Bank and United Nations global studies.

The book is especially annoying because it is so self-absorbed and undisciplined in its presentation. Essentially, four smart people, each a world-class performer in their narrow domain (and familiar with the standard range of knowledge management and futures forecasting literature), but not at all well-read across either the spiritual or the ecological and game of nations literature, cooked up a plan for tape-recording their conversations and turning it into a book

The book is double-spaced throughout, and its obliviousness to the larger body of literature created in me, as I moved from chapter to chapter looking for gems, a growing sense of impatience and annoyance.

The "U" is a cute idea if you have not heard of self-awareness, collective intelligence, synergy (an over-used word, but one that existed with meaning long before this book or the "U"), or informal "think globally, act locally" that the Co-Evolution Quarterly and Whole Earth Review were pioneering long before these authors decided it would be cool to fund their reflections among themselves.

Don't waste your time or money. Instead, buy Charles Hampden Turner's Radical Man: The Process of Psycho-Social Development. Robert Buckman's Building a Knowledge-Driven Organization and any of Margaret Wheatley's books. This book is a very weak and rather poorly executed second-hand rendition of the thoughts of others, both those the authors' have been exposed to, and the many others the authors have not bothered to read into.

There is one serious thought in this book that bears quotation. It is on page 216. "At the heart of the challenge facing HP--and lots of other businesses--is the way information moves around the world. In order to grow in line with our business, new ways of experiencing information will be needed. When Humberto says that 'love is the only emotion that expands intelligence,' it reminds us that legitimacy and trust are crucial for the free flow of information and for how information gets transformed into value." Perhaps I expect too much, but the fact that the authors fail to cite the Nobel Prize awarded for the proof that trust lowers the cost of doing business, and they have no awareness of key works on legitimacy as the foundation for global stability, such as the edited work by Max Manwaring on The Search for Security: A U.S. Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century simply confirmed my sense that this book is "disconnected" from a larger body of thought.

Reading this book was like being forced to sit next to four active cell-phone users for three hours in a cramped space. Not fun at all.


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