Innovation and systemic thought: Otto Scharmer’s Theory U

“What distinguishes us as human beings is the fact that we can connect with the emerging future” is what Otto Scharmer affirms in his book The Essentials of Theory U, the accessible and succinct guide to Theory U published by Guerini Next and edited by Peoplerise. On sale at bookshops in Italy.


Otto Scharmer was born in Germany and grew up on a farm. He is now a professor at MIT in Boston, the founder of Theory U, co-founder of the Presencing Institute and one of the most influential advocates in the world in the debate on Change Management.

Otto Scharmer founded his Theory U in 1997. This is a method that departs from individual awareness and continues towards the destination of changing systems: from our companies to the transformation of capitalism, the systems or democracy and education and even of ourselves.


We are living in an era stained by numerous fractures. There is an ecological fracture, for instance, that is witnessing unprecedented environmental destruction. Social fractures are due to economic injustice and then there is the spiritual fracture. The widespread increase in cases of depression and exhaustion is proof of this. Scharmer claims that these examples should bring us to the understanding that our relations, organizations and society need a drastic change of course. The journey described by Scharmer in his Theory is one that passes through the depths to leave you with the kind of reality that is guided by the past and rolls towards an emerging, ecosystemic future. His message appears to be more urgent now than ever before.


Theory U provides answers with a combination of innovation, systemic thought and a guide towards change from the perspective of the evolution of human awareness. Drawing upon MIT’s tradition of «action research» and «learning by doing», the Theory has evolved through twenty years of experimentation and progressive maturation thanks also to the practice of a dynamic global community.


The Theory consists of a framework used to learn how to find the blind spot in leadership and in a change of systems; a method to accomplish an awareness-based change and a new narrative for an evolutionary change in society.

It also incorporates methods and bodies of research regarding change: action research and learning organization in the tradition of Peter Senge, Ed Schein, Donald Schön, Chris Argyris and Kurt Lewin; aside from design thinking and mindfulness, it is also based on social movements (from Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela to Mahatma Gandhi and many other activists who have changed history).


The book

Almost 20 years after the success of Theory U, Otto Scharmer has published The Essentials of Theory U: Core Principles and Applications, a concise streamlined edition with the intent of offering an accessible guide to his Theory. Published in Italian by Guerini Next with the title “Teoria U: I Fondamentali. Principi e applicazioni”, it will be on sale at bookshops in Italy on 20 June.

Part One (Chapters 1-4) explores Theory U’s framework and main ideas, including the “blind spot” which predominantly casts a shadow on leadership today.


Part Two (Chapter 5) describes the process, the principles and the practices of Theory U. Methods and practical tools for change agents.


Part Three (Chapters 6-7) suggests a new narrative for a profound evolutionary change in society and outlines a framework for updating the «operating systems» of our educational institutions, our economies and our democracies – a framework based directly on the key concepts of Theory U for the transformation of capitalism.


Buy the book on line at: https://amzn.to/2tgZhA6

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