Otto Scharmer biography and theory

Claus Otto Scharmer - Toolshero

Otto Scharmer is Senior lecturer in the area of Organization Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Dr. Claus Otto Scharmer is also the founder and director of the Presencing Institute and developer of the Theory U and the 4 levels of listening theory.

Otto Scharmer biography

Otto Scharmer obtained a Master’s degree (MSc.) and his doctorate (Ph.D.) in economics and management from the Witten/Herdecke University in Germany.

Scharmer is active as a visiting professor at the Helsinki School of Economics. Scharmer is enthused by innovation. He chairs the MIT IDEAS programme and helps groups of managers and professionals from business, government and foundations stimulate innovation within their environments.

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He has worked in Africa, Asia and Europe and he has delivered leadership and innovation programmes for companies including Daimler, Eileen Fisher, PriceWaterhouse, Fujitsu, Google and Natura.

Development of his Theory U concept

Otto Scharmer is especially known as one of the founders of the Theory U approach. Theory U is about personal leadership and a different way of thinking.

He has further developed this approach with the employees of the former MIT in the past few years. This approach is used across the globe and his book ‘Theory U’ is available in 15 languages.

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Famous quotes

  1. “The only change that will make a difference is the transformation of the human heart.”
  2. “Leadership is about the capacity of the whole system to sense and actualize the future that wants to emerge.”
  3. “This is the moment when what we need most is enough people with the skill, heart, and wisdom to help us pull ourselves back from the edge of breakdown and onto a different path.”
  4. “Leadership is about being better able to listen to the whole than anyone else can.”
  5. “The crisis of our time isn’t just a crisis of a single leader, organization, country, or conflict. The crisis of our time reveals the dying of an old social structure and way of thinking, an old way of institutionalizing and enacting collective social forms.”
  6. “You cannot understand a system unless you change it.”
  7. “The ability to shift from reacting against the past to leaning into and presencing an emerging future is probably the single most important leadership capacity today.”
  8. “There’s only one issue in the world. It’s the reintegration of mind and matter.”

Books, articles and publications by Otto Scharmer et al.

  • 2019. Upgrading change management. Gruppe. Interaktion. Organisation. Zeitschrift für Angewandte Organisationspsychologie (GIO), 50(2), 193-196.
  • 2013, 2009. Leading from the emerging future: From ego-system to eco-system economies. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
  • 2008. Uncovering the blind spot of leadership, Journal: Leader To Leader, no. 47, pp. 52-59.
  • 2008. Community action research: Learning as a community of practitioners, consultants and researchers. Sage Publications.
  • 2008. Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future. Crown Business.
  • 2005. Building Ba to Enhance Knowledge Creation and Innovation at Large Firms.
  • 2005. Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People, ‘Organizations, and Society’.
  • 2003. Breathing life into a dying system. Reflections, 5(3), 1-9.
  • 2003. The Blind Spot of leadership: Presencing as a social technology of freedom. working title.
  • 2002. Learning communities: Toward a triadic differentiation of learning networks. A Passion for Ideas: How Innovators Create the New and Shape Our World, 87.
  • 2002. Presencing: Illuminating the blind spot of leadership. Unpublished.
  • 2001. Humility and Ignorance: What It Takes to Be an Effective Process Consultant, Journal: Reflections: The Sol Journal, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 8-19.
  • 2001. Praxis Pentagon of Organizational Learning, Journal: Reflections: The Sol Journal, vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 36-45.
  • 2001. Self-transcending knowledge: sensing and organizing around emerging opportunities, Journal of Knowledge Management, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 137-151.
  • 2001. Awareness is the first and critical thing.
  • 2000. Universities As the Birthplace for the Entrepreneuring Human Being 1.
  • 2000. Leadership in the new economy: Sensing and actualizing emerging futures. Generon Consulting.
  • 2000. Knowledge creation: a source of value. Macmillan Press.
  • 2000. Grabbing the Tiger by the Tail. Conversation with Robert Kegan.
  • 2000. Three gestures of becoming aware. Conversation with professor Francisco Varela, A McKinsey/SoL Joint research Project, Dialog on Leadership Series. Accès: www. dialogonleadership. org.
  • 1999. Awareness is the first and critical thing. Conversation with Professor Wanda Orlikowski.
  • 1999. Every institution is a living system. Conversation with Arie de Geus on, 22.
  • 1996. Reflexive Modernisierung des Kapitalismus als Revolution von innen: auf der Suche nach Infrastrukturen für eine lernende Gesellschaft; dialogische Neugründung von Wissenschaft, Wirtschaft und Politik. M&P, Verlag für Wiss. u. Forschung.
  • 1995. Reflexive Modernisierung des Kapitalismus als Revolution von innen. Stuttgart: Pöeschel.

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Original publication date: 06/19/2012 | Last update: 06/03/2024

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Vincent van Vliet
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Vincent van Vliet

Vincent van Vliet is co-founder and responsible for the content and release management. Together with the team Vincent sets the strategy and manages the content planning, go-to-market, customer experience and corporate development aspects of the company.


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