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Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations, and Society
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Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations, and Society

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  1,539 ratings  ·  95 reviews
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 o ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 16th 2005 by Crown Business (first published 2004)
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Oct 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
In seminary, I took a class called "Mysticism and Human Presence." Later, I stumbled onto Ralph Harper's book, "On Presence." Then I discovered Bernard McGinn's magnum-opus-in-progress, a history of Western Christian mysticism called "The Presence of God." All of these were significant to the formation of my theology. So when I saw this book - co-written by Peter Senge, whose work on "learning organizations" I have found so helpful - it was irresistible. When I began reading it, I was reminded o ...more
Omar Halabieh
Dec 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The central theme in this book is to present a new theory - the U movement - around how collective change occurs. The theory presents a new way for us to look at current reality and understand how we are contributing to it, but more importantly how we can re-shape it to what we want it to be. One of the fundamental underpinnings of this theory is that, while we usually break down systems into their individual parts to understand them, this decomposition does not work effectively for understandin ...more
Neelesh Marik
Aug 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
'The longest road you will ever walk is the sacred journey from your head to your heart' ...more
Aug 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wrote on the inside cover: A really excellent book! And if you were to open my copy you'd find it's filled with my annotations. I went on to write an article inspired by the book:
Leadership, information gathering and the future - What if we’ve got it wrong?

Here's a quote from that article:
(...) My hypothesis is that we will find a growing discrepancy between what we plan for the future and what comes about because of the actions we undertake to make it h
Jun 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
The dedicated efforts of this group of writers will probably accomplish good things, but I struggled to finish this book. A sincere, naive group of "servant leaders" collaborated to share their worldview. Sadly, too much of what is presented as fact is actually belief; group-think that was so carefully dissected and examined within the group that it clearly has substance for those involved.

The approach that the writers advocate - basically for leaders to be present and connected to team members
Jan 24, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 a
Niklas Eklund
Feb 21, 2014 rated it liked it
I really like the concept of the U-theory and I found the way it was written to be very comfortable and interesting (it was written as if in a constant group dialogue). However while I found it comfortable to read it was at the same time hard to grasp at point on what they were arguing about. You get about 3/4 of the book hearing about the U-theory until you actually see the model itself.

Another major grip is the religious/spiritual aspects that shines through the entire book. And the constant r
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is for the leader who is tired of pretending the system works well and wants a purpose beyond self-promotion and profit. This work will connect you to a better part of yourself and show you a way to honour humanity and our environment.

Peter Senge, C. Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, and Betty Sue Flower's book Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations, and Society is a subtle, mature, and daring book. It dares to confront everything what is not working in our
Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership
One of Cambridge Sustainability's Top 50 Books for Sustainability, as voted for by our alumni network of over 3,000 senior leaders from around the world. To find out more, click here.

Presence presents a new model of personal and organisational change. Much of the book comprises transcripts of conversations between the authors, on subjects including science, business, leadership and spirituality. The authors' central question is: how do we individually and collectively bring about useful change i
Sep 23, 2010 added it
-My idealism isn't immature. Smart people with profound experiences think like I do. Phew.
-Open up to the unpredictable dynamics of team work. Your value is in what you contribute, not in how fast you come up with 'the solution' (which you can't and really shouldn't do on your own anyway).
-Raise your awareness and think in systems.
-Be authentically you because what you bring to every situation influences it profoundly. False professional personas don't just protect you from others, they also in
Soren Molander
Apr 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fact-books
First of all, the basic themes of this book are fundamentally sound. Having seen how the workplace has become ever more disconnected from many basic human values over the last 10 years, pretty much everybody realizes that something is wrong about the hows and whys we work. The book is concentrated around conversations among a group of people (CEOs and consultants) who want to change how many (if not most) companies and organizations work today. I don't work primarily to increase shareholder valu ...more
Victoria Weinstein
Feb 28, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: garbage
This is a book about how white corporate dudes dip a toe into some of the most basic spiritual premises known to humanity, regurgitate it amongst themselves with huge doses of self-congratulatory back-slapping and stick a bunch of ridiculous language around it to make it sound new. "Presencing!" What horseshit.

It's the worst, most unconscious white male privilege ever committed to paper. The authors cite dozens and dozens of other male "experts" and speak into an echo chamber of their enthusias
Oct 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book because one of the authors, Betty Sue Flowers, was a speaker for the Mind Science Foundation in San Antonio. I found that even though it is almost a decade old, it dovetailed nicely into her talk.

The book is not organized typically, there are lots of sections that are transcripts of the authors' conversations. The lessons are organically grown from these anecdotes. Lots of Buddhist and Confucianism references. This is not a "how to guide" to healthier organizations or a sin
Ric Winstead
Jun 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Recommended to Ric by: Oksana
An important book for anyone who wants to make deep changes to avoid the requiem scenario.

Combines a Buddhist & Tao understanding of the Self as part of the change process both as participant and co-creator of both our stuckness in the present toxic world and as the enabler of unfolding new integral action with natural flow. It describes entering into a sacred place of dancing with inner/outer manifestations. Leadership & becoming human.

Some amazing stories of self-discovery and revelation. It
Aug 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book was like being part of the amazing, organic, "think tank" of some the great minds of our times. It is a brilliant exploration to the collective, global overhaul we need to begin in order to effect significant change in our world. These thinkers postulate the we CAN shape our future in a profound way by tapping into our collective consciousness and reshaping traditional organizational learning. I LOVED how this book tied together wisdom gained from mainstream corporate America a ...more
Apr 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pathless_path
"We consider the living universe around us as nothing more than 'natural resources' that exist solely for us to take and use...The environment movement is mostly focused on how we can be 'less bad', how we can take or destroy less. But what if humans, as a species, actually have a purpose? What if we have something distinctive to contribute - something to give rather than just take?" ...more
Dec 11, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: half-read
i tried to read this book, i really did. one of my professors recommended it, and theoretically I'm sure it has a lot of offer. but i just cannot get beyond the new agey mumbo jumbo. maybe if i start from the middle i can skip all of that... ...more
Apr 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
I'm going to have to read this book again when I finish it. Am enjoying it incredibly. Looks like the business case for presence to me! ...more
Bjørn Peterson, PhD
Refreshingly unique format and storytelling approach to such a book. Nice to see the struggles and journeys of the authors.
Cristiano Alkaim
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amazing book about experiences and insights!
Jan 14, 2018 rated it did not like it
The book started off promisingly, with a respectable, academic tone. By the 144th page, (forty more than I would have liked to struggle through), I threw in the towel because it had clearly turned totally new-agey. Even IF I didn't mind new-agey content, the word-for-word conversation and background-building style of the writing added a lot of unnecessary details to process. I found the lack of a point more and more glaring with every passing chapter; all sorts of stuff was mentioned and quoted, ...more
Jan 08, 2018 rated it liked it
I always look for a nugget of wisdom in every book I read. This book certainly had a few but it was not an easy read. It set up as if you’re listening in on a conversation of 4 people who are evolving their thoughts on how we, people and all living things, and maybe just all things, are interconnected. It introduces the U Theory which taps into the collective. I’m not sure I totally understand the theory but I’m also not sure that we’re meant to.
Trevor Sterner
There were some really good quotes and ideas in this book, however much (perhaps all) of what is in here as evidence is really just one off examples without any science behind them. We humans are really good at finding meaning in randomness that lines up with our biases.

Still worth a read just to open your mind to different ideas, but worth retaining a high degree of scepticism.
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

New perspective, definitely teaching new ways of doing/seeing/being etc.
I would have liked more guidance on how to get through the U, but they were a lot of examples. I'll have to practice now.
Justine Burt
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Inspiring work that tells stories of great upheavals in society and the good that came out of them. Makes you think great change like addressing climate change or reversing mass species extinction is possible if we lean into it with abundant resources.
Kim Zinkowski
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book...passed to Jim.
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it! Will read again one day to digest it more.
Julia Fink
Mar 06, 2018 rated it did not like it
Not as good as the book jacket sounded...too long and boring in spots...
Michael Scott Walters
This was for me the wrong choice. Beyond my comprehension.
John D.
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
a very special book. wise, important, and compelling--with good storytelling as a bonus
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change making in the world 2 10 Jul 25, 2011 08:59AM  

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Peter M. Senge is a senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is also founding chair of the Society for Organizational Learning (SoL), a global community of corporations, researchers, and consultants dedicated to the "interdependent development of people and their institutions."
--from the author's website

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