Archive for August, 2008

This Is Our Time

Friday, August 29th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 10 Comments

This is our moment. This is our time.

i just got back to the US after two months of Europe and Africa. in Europe i could watch the impact of Obama’s speech in front of the 200 000 in Berlin, particularly on young people (German politicians are happy when they would draw 2000). at the time Obama was giving his speech in Berlin i was running a leadership workshop for 24 younger leaders of a global company in Southern Germany. i showed them the speech the next morning. they reacted just as thoughtful as the Berlin crowd did the night before. I am now 47 and for the first time in my life i am listening to a politician and i go: yes, i agree, its basically true what this guy says…

why would young people in Germany, who have never listened to any politician, show up to Obamas speech? Why would young people in the US, who never engaged in any political movement, turn into activists? Why would middle aged people like me stop and turn on the TV and soak in that historical moment (the nomination of Obama as presidential candidate) last night?

we all do it for the very same reason: because we are longing for something way different, we are longing for some profound renewal and change in our collective structures. we have been waiting, consciously or not, all our lives. and now, it feels, a window is beginning to open up.

all evolution works in stages: longer stages of gradual change; followed by shorter windows of potential disruptive change. these windows are the moments when the real change, the presencing of the future can happen, when the major leaps forward can occur. it feels like our current period is one in which that window of opportunity just begins to opening. we can feel the wind of change arising from within. it feels as if now is the time to rise to the occasion. to make a bold move. to do…. what?


Attentional Violence

Sunday, August 24th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 19 Comments

One of my greatest intellectual teachers has been the peace researcher Johan Galtung. He is known for developing the term and theory of structural violence. The concept of structural violence dawned on him while seeing the victims of poverty in India. People were suffering and yet the cause for the suffering was not another person (direct violence) but the collective economic structure (structural violence).

Likewise it dawned on me over the past few years that there is yet another form of violence that tends to be even more invisible, unrecognized, and pervasive: attentional violence. Attentional violence is to not to be seen and recognized in terms of who you really are–in terms of your highest future possibility. Instead you are only seen in terms of your journey of the past, that is, in terms of the circumstances of the past, in terms of who you happen to be today. People are blind or ignorant of that aspect of your self, that isn’t (fully) born or manifest as of yet.

Who is the victim of such attentional violence? Its our highest future possibility, our essential or authentic Self. When our authentic self and highest future possibility is not seen, then its future potential is cut off from the evolution of the present. It does not have a holding space where it could land, were it could presence itself. Not being seen is a form of violence because it violates fundamental human needs. Our culture (following Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) thinks of material needs as more fundamental than our spiritual needs (such as being seen in one’s highest potential). I believe that is dead wrong. When do your social and spiritual needs start? at 1200 calories a day? 1500 calories? 2000?

Its the wrong question. spiritual, social, and material basic needs are always present with us. The attentional violence today hits most people on earth all the time. But it hits the hardest those of us, who happen to live in marginalized groups (including youth in general), in which people are habitually not recognized and not referred to in terms of their true future potential. All great teachers, leaders, and educators are highly developed in terms of seeing the other (the student) in their highest future possibility. In fast, SEEING that highest future possibility in the other IS the essence of great education and leadership.

When i was a student i once interviewed a great philosopher. His name is Vitorio Hösle. I probably had read 2000 pages of his work before visiting him. He was like a living Plato to me–in fact, i still think he is. The mere fact that HE was TALKING to ME was kind of mind blowing. He took me and my question as serious as if i was on an equal level with him. I couldn’t believe it. But what really floored me was the end of the conversation. He looked at me and said: “Otto, i expect great things of you in the future.” i almost fainted. i thought “Who is he talking to? Cant be possibly me. Cant be the unknown student who is sitting in front of him now.” But clearly, there was no other person in the room. Is he really talking about — me?

All i can say is that his remark had a big long term impact on me. He saw something that i was totally unaware of. But when he said it i had truly no idea what and whom he was talking about…


currently Stowe, Vermont


Tuesday, August 19th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

This is the blog of Otto Scharmer, Senior Lecturer at MIT, a founding chair of the Presencing Institute, and author of the book Theory U: Leading from the Future as It Emerges – The Social Technology of Presencing.

Please enjoy the posts and comment as you are inspired.