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3.6 out of 5 stars
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3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 10 December 2007
This inspiring book, written by four authorities on management and leadership, takes the reader on a journey of self-discovery and engagement with issues of change, in organisations, society at large and individuals. Its basic premise is that change involves not only elements external to a situation but, also, or perhaps even more so, the people involved. The authors offer insights into the interrelationships between parts and wholes, inviting us to change our outlook, no longer looking at parts for the solution to a problem but at the complete picture ("the whole"). The ideas in this book draw upon ideas of the physicist Bohm (the implicate order) and psychologist Jung (synchronicity).

Describing the process of change they have been tentatively exploring, the authors make the case for a new method of learning. They argue that increasing awareness of the whole, as it is and as it is evolving, will allow insights into solutions to come forward. This requires a new type of listening that goes well beyond our usual methods of hearing what someone has to say. On the basis of these solutions that "emerge" from the "field" (yes, here it does become a little metaphysical), they argue that humans are able to suspend their initial responses and open up to answers that are unexpected. They invite us to see with the heart, as well. The authors call this process a "U" curve: going deep down into reflection, sensing the potential solutions and then, coming up, exploring the actions that present themselves as possible ways forward to effect change.

I highly recommend the book, wonderfully describing the authors' joint journey into uncharted waters, also to the sceptical mind.
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on 11 November 2006
I was recommended this book as a serious book on new types of management practises. The Theory U, one of the main themes of the book, may turn out to be so. However, unfortunately the explanation of the Theory U is intervened in the book with lots of personal stories, many referring to their alledged personal experiences of various kinds of sychronicity experiences; quite jungian or new age in my opinion.

Most of the personal stories, like dancing whales or communicating with sea lions if something that you cannot touch. They can be true or not. However, on the second last page of Chapter 15, Joseph Jaworski describes his encounter with Carlos Barrios, a Mayan priest. This Barrios told Jaworski about "Perhaps the most famous of [Mayan Calendar] cycles, the Bolopumi", which according to the book started in 1518 and lasted for 468 years. Then, after that, there was several "different shorter cycles", last of which "signals that 'a new child is born'", and that last cycle "began on August 17, 2001." Now, on August 17 2001 there was apparently an important spiritual meeting that Jaworski participated to. "Carlos said that this was not surprising -- that all around the world generative choices were being made on that day."

Now, I went to google, wikipedia, etc, and searched for "Bolopumi". The only hit I found looked like a Chinese translation of that part of the Presence book. The right term for the period might have been "Bolomtikus", though. Looking at various sources on Mayan calendars, I couldn't find any evidence that Mayan calendar experts would consider August 17, 2001 as an important date. Apparently August 16, 1987 was an important date, at least according to Carlos Barrios, though.

So, I am personally very sceptical towards all the "stories" in the book that tell about the "synchronous" or world-opening personal experiences of the authors, and especially sceptical towards those told by Jaworski. He doesn't seem to get even his details right.

Hence, while the Theory U, mostly developed by Scharmer, may represent something remarkable, in general I'm pretty sceptical about the rest of the material included in this book.
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on 27 June 2005
In this excellent book, Peter Senge and his colleagues have produced an inspiring and thought-provoking read that explains many of the barriers to progress experienced by both society and business. Their explanation of 'presence' as the combination of past and future, spirit and practical intervention is superb. I strongly recommend this read to anyone who is interested in creating profound change, whether for themselves or others.
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on 20 March 2014
Of the different books written by Senge and companions, this is perhaps the one I found the most difficult to read. It is not written in a difficult way, though. Quite to the contrary, actually, but the way of seeing science, politics and spirituality as aspects of the same phenomenon, as exemplified by the U theory, makes it a bit slippery to me. What I perhaps found to be the most useful aspect of the book was the introduction where they discuss fear as something that prevents learning. , What do we do if we want to implement organisational learning in an organisation that is run by fear? With fear as a dominant factor, it becomes impossible to challenge the existing mental models. People just end up doing single-loop learning that only results in assimilating to the existing culture. In order to break out of the culture and change it, deep thinking is necessary. This is where the context of the U-theory makes sense. Deep thinking, or intuitive thinking rather, is what is happening at the bottom of the U. Although this is both important and interesting, I'm not sure whether it is particularly new. To me it sounds like typical 'new age' politics, but it is nevertheless it is interesting to see it in the context of organisational learning literature in general and Senge's 'Fifth Discipline' approach in particular.
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on 25 January 2010
The authors of this book are all respected experts on development and change, at both an individual and organisational level. This is a really powerful book that sets out a different route to personal and wider change. This book was on the reading list from an innovative leadership course I attended recently, and provides the reader with an experiential and theoretical model that focuses on "presence". If you are involved in management or leadership do read this book. Some of the content can initially appear a bit "new age", but if you put aside your "voice of judgement" you'll see the true value of the work in this book.
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on 20 February 2013
This is a book where if you apply your intellect you will completely miss the point and essence of what it points to: that all new thoughts, changes, ideas, perspectives (which are all thoughts anyway) come from an insight. That's it. Simple. And when you listen or look for something with the intellect you will just innocently get in the way of yourself, and delay the very insight you are looking for! That's like chasing the echo of your own voice. We know what we know, and nothing new comes from that, but listening to someone beyond the words they are saying is when you'll discover new insights. If you're curious to know more about this, check out Jamie Smart's forthcoming book 'Clarity' (Clarity: Clear Mind, Better Performance, Bigger Results)
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on 23 December 2010
I recommend this book to anyone involved in change management. The stories about how "ordinary" people brought about change through pulling their energy, focus, humility and understanding together was inspiring. Christine Brown-Quinn, The Female Capitalist (TM), Author of "Step Aside Super Woman".
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on 3 November 2007
The bulk of this book described anecdotal 'spiritual' experiences that one might expect from a new-age hippie suffering from a particularly purile acid flashback. This book is nothing more than fanciful communing-with-nature speculation that turns the stomach noxious.

The authors pretty well go over every 'spiritual' cliche - reminiscent of the idiotic male model from the film Zoolander and his troupe of dwarves, circus freaks and shaman. This book has roughly the equivalent intellect of said film, despite the (debatable?) credentials of its authors.

Buyer beware, this is in no way a management or business book. I urge you strongly NOT to purchase this poor excuse for a waste of good paper, and instead spend your time and money on a far more worthy title.
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on 6 November 2010
Oh dear, what a disappointment. What has happened to Peter Senge ?
From the fifth Discipline to this? As a chapter or a free download it could have been of some interest.
Instead it is unsupported nonsense. They seem to accept people's claims and don't ask to see any evidence at all. Is anything in this book really true? It is hard to tell. Some of the ideas are of interest and the writing style is generally quite good but there is very little of substance here.
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on 13 April 2008
This has to be one of the most tedious reads of all time and, in my opinion, of no value to anyone undertaking management of change. The feel of the book is wooly and shows a complete lack of capacity to cross reference itself to current modern and innovative (scientific) principles of behavioural change, social learning theory, self awareness, cognitive or behavioural theory or concepts in artificial intelligence design. Self absorbed to the point that one must accept as read the fact that the authors are high minded intelligent people who deserve the attention we, mere mortals, bestow upon them. Too much bunkum and too expensive by far.
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