Review: Presence–An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations, and Society (Hardcover)

3 Star, Future

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3.0 out of 5 stars Smart, Self-Absorbed Taped Conversation Unlinked to Work of Others,

September 18, 2005
Peter M. Senge
This is a fairly annoying book if you are at all well-read, and especially so if you read Charles Hampden-Turner’s Radical Man: The Process of Psycho-Social Development. in the 1970’s and are familiar with a sampling of Eastern “connectedness” thought as well as the range of human and global problems and solutions literature running from the Club of Rome to the econological economics of Herman Daly to the integrative science and humanities of E.O. Wilson and Margaret Wheatley to the World Bank and United Nations global studies.

The book is especially annoying because it is so self-absorbed and undisciplined in its presentation. Essentially, four smart people, each a world-class performer in their narrow domain (and familiar with the standard range of knowledge management and futures forecasting literature), but not at all well-read across either the spiritual or the ecological and game of nations literature, cooked up a plan for tape-recording their conversations and turning it into a book

The book is double-spaced throughout, and its obliviousness to the larger body of literature created in me, as I moved from chapter to chapter looking for gems, a growing sense of impatience and annoyance.

The “U” is a cute idea if you have not heard of self-awareness, collective intelligence, synergy (an over-used word, but one that existed with meaning long before this book or the “U”), or informal “think globally, act locally” that the Co-Evolution Quarterly and Whole Earth Review were pioneering long before these authors decided it would be cool to fund their reflections among themselves.

Don’t waste your time or money. Instead, buy Charles Hampden Turner’s Radical Man: The Process of Psycho-Social Development. Robert Buckman’s Building a Knowledge-Driven Organization and any of Margaret Wheatley’s books. This book is a very weak and rather poorly executed second-hand rendition of the thoughts of others, both those the authors’ have been exposed to, and the many others the authors have not bothered to read into.

There is one serious thought in this book that bears quotation. It is on page 216. “At the heart of the challenge facing HP–and lots of other businesses–is the way information moves around the world. In order to grow in line with our business, new ways of experiencing information will be needed. When Humberto says that ‘love is the only emotion that expands intelligence,’ it reminds us that legitimacy and trust are crucial for the free flow of information and for how information gets transformed into value.” Perhaps I expect too much, but the fact that the authors fail to cite the Nobel Prize awarded for the proof that trust lowers the cost of doing business, and they have no awareness of key works on legitimacy as the foundation for global stability, such as the edited work by Max Manwaring on The Search for Security: A U.S. Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century simply confirmed my sense that this book is “disconnected” from a larger body of thought.

Reading this book was like being forced to sit next to four active cell-phone users for three hours in a cramped space. Not fun at all.

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