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Otto Scharmer

Otto Scharmer is a Senior Lecturer at MIT, a Thousand Talents Program Professor at Tsinghua University, and co-founder of the Presencing Institute. He chairs the MIT IDEAS Program and co-founded the Global Wellbeing Lab. With his colleagues, Scharmer introduced the concept of “presencing” —learning from the emerging future — in his bestselling books Theory U and Presence (the latter co-authored). His book Leading From the Emerging Future: From Ego-system to Eco-system Economies (co-authored with Katrin Kaufer) focuses on applying mindfulness to transforming business, society, and self.
In 2015 he co-founded the MITx u.lab, a massive open online course (MOOC) that pioneers a blended o2o (online-to-offline) learning platform to enable transformational leadership learning for tens of thousands of participants in self-organized communities across 185 countries.
Otto earned his diploma (with distinction) and PhD (summa cum laude) from Witten/Herdecke University in Germany. In 2015 he received the Jamieson Prize for Excellence in Teaching at MIT.

Entries by Otto Scharmer

Form Follows Consciousness

(0) Comments | Posted April 16, 2016 | 12:21 PM

I'm just returning from Costa Rica, where I co-facilitated the closing session of the Global Wellbeing Lab. The lab was co-founded by the German Government's GIZ, the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Center in Bhutan, and the Cambridge (MA)-based Presencing Institute (PI) in order to innovate beyond GDP by...

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MITx u.lab: Education As Activating Social Fields

(0) Comments | Posted December 22, 2015 | 1:35 PM

Until last year, the number of students in my classes at MIT numbered 50 or so. Less than twelve months later, I have just completed my first class with 50,000 registered participants. They came from 185 countries, and together they co-generated:
• >400 prototype (action learning) initiatives

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El pescado se pudre por la cabeza

(0) Comments | Posted November 20, 2015 | 6:04 AM

Dos historias de este año representan poderosamente, aunque de formas muy diferentes, campos sociales: una es la crisis de los refugiados y la otra es el decepcionante escándalo del engaño de los diésel que ha llevado a Volkswagen al borde del colapso.

Al decir campos sociales me...

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Paris: Shifting the Heart of the Collective

(15) Comments | Posted November 18, 2015 | 10:09 AM

The terror attacks in Paris are a stab to our collective heart. The choice of the location for the terror attacks aims at the three core values of Western civilization: liberté, egalité, fraternité.

Since Nov 14, France's President Hollande has used the word "war" to describe the relationship between his...

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The Fish Rots from the Head Down

(0) Comments | Posted September 28, 2015 | 12:07 PM

Over the past two weeks, two powerful stories have dominated headlines: one is the refugee crisis, which I reflected on in my previous blog entry, and the other is the diesel deception scandal that has brought Volkswagen to the brink of collapse. These stories represent powerful yet very...

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As Systems Collapse, Citizens Rise

(0) Comments | Posted September 7, 2015 | 12:57 PM

As we see pictures of German citizens cheering tens of thousands refugees arriving from Syria and other war zones, we may be witnessing an emerging pattern of the years to come: bureaucracy is failing (EU), systems collapsing (millions of Asylum seeking refugees in urgent need of helping hands)...

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A Second Enlightenment in the Making? Seven Stories From the Front Lines

(0) Comments | Posted July 8, 2015 | 7:13 PM

Over the past few weeks I've had an eye-opening string of experiences. I've seen the burnout and exhaustion of change-makers who feel that "in spite of winning some battles, we are losing the war." A lot of the news isn't good: climate destabilization, the deepening of ecological and social divides,...

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The Blind Spot: Uncovering the Grammar of the Social Field

(0) Comments | Posted June 6, 2015 | 7:22 AM

This post is a bit longer than usual. But if you are interested in the invisible dimension of leading profound social change -- and in a blend of action science and consciousness to illuminate that blind spot -- it may be worth the read.

My father is a farmer....

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MOOC 4.0: The Next Revolution in Learning & Leadership

(0) Comments | Posted May 4, 2015 | 9:39 PM

Last month my colleagues and I completed a pilot of what well may be the most interesting project of my life. It was the pilot of a new type of MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) that pushes the MOOC design envelope by blending a globally transformative platform with an eco-system...

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U.Lab: Seven Principles for Revolutionizing Higher Ed

(0) Comments | Posted February 17, 2015 | 8:37 AM

We have 28,000 registered participants from 190 countries. They are linked through 350 self-organizing Hubs across cultures, forming 700-1,000 coaching circles to co-create an inspired web of connections with change makers across society's sectors and systems. Below is the first account of a bold experiment called MITx U.Lab,...

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You Must Change Your Life

(0) Comments | Posted January 7, 2015 | 12:05 PM

We live on a razor's edge. From one instant to another, any of us can regress to yesterday's mindset or connect with an emerging future possibility. In all countries and civilizations around the globe, we face the same challenge: crossing the threshold to this other side, to the field of...

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Indonesia: The Power of Inspired Social Fields

(0) Comments | Posted December 10, 2014 | 11:52 AM

I've just returned from a weeklong deep dive into the frontline of societal renewal in Indonesia. In an earlier blog I shared some of my experiences with a group of Indonesian leaders from government, business, and civil society who came for a weeklong module at MIT in September....

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5 Conditions for Shifting Social Fields

(0) Comments | Posted October 6, 2014 | 10:45 PM

Last week at MIT we hosted a group of leaders and change makers from Indonesia. With its 17,000 islands and 250 million inhabitants, Indonesia is the third largest democracy and the biggest Muslim country in the world. Several members of the visiting group are key players in CTI, the

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U-Lab: Prototyping the 21st-Century University

(0) Comments | Posted August 11, 2014 | 3:29 PM

Higher education has hit a wall -- particularly the business school. Four issues are upending higher education as it is constituted today:

It is overpriced: While the cost of higher education has skyrocketed, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have emerged as a game changer, opening doors to an unparalleled...

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From Big Data to Deep Data

(0) Comments | Posted July 18, 2014 | 10:42 AM

Over the past ten months I have chaired and co-facilitated MIT's IDEAS China program--a ten month innovation journey for a group of 30 or so senior Chinese business leaders. This year the IDEAS China program enrolled executives of a major state-owned Chinese bank. One goal of this team was to...

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Beijing, Brazil, 7-1: Awareness Shift in Soccer, Society

(0) Comments | Posted July 12, 2014 | 3:59 AM

I happened to be in Beijing earlier this week, and of course everyone was talking about the 7-1 (World Cup semifinal between Brazil and Germany). Since Chancellor Angela Merkel was also visiting Beijing this week, the running joke was that the 7-1 score was Merkel's birthday present to her hosts,...

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Eight Acupuncture Points for Transforming Capitalism

(0) Comments | Posted June 15, 2014 | 9:05 PM

I'm just returning from the annual BALLE conference in Oakland. BALLE (the Business Association for Local Living Economies), is the fastest-growing network of sustainable and value-based enterprises in North America. It was founded some fourteen years ago, but the origins of this networked grassroots movement go...

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Brazil and FIFA: A Time Bomb Ticking?

(0) Comments | Posted June 11, 2014 | 5:21 PM

A week in Sao Paulo gave me a really interesting window onto the state (and soul) of the country. Two observations.

The people's openness for profound change has never felt stronger. I felt that openness at the launch of Novos Urbanos, a sharing economy initiative around collaborative, conscious consumption in...

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Are We Sinking -- Or Are We Beginning to Rise?

(3) Comments | Posted April 30, 2014 | 4:26 PM

The other day I sat in a World Bank meeting in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the gathering was to initiate a Collective Action Platform that would help multi-stakeholder groups to collaborate more effectively in addressing the major challenges of our time. Here are a few observations that I found...

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A Global Action Leadership School in the Making

(5) Comments | Posted March 26, 2014 | 6:51 PM

I had an interesting week. On Monday I attended a book launch event in Denmark. The idea of the organizers was to create a "Nordic Forum" to bring together leaders and change-makers from many systems and sectors who are using awareness-based technologies of change (such as the one described in...

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