It's been a week since I finished reading the book, "Presence" by Peter Senge and co. Finally managed to collate most of the thoughts that either reinforced my own beliefs and ideas, or gave me fresh food for thought, opened my eyes to aspects I've not been aware of so far, and gave me inspiration. This is going to be a looooong but very interesting post...! If you're a person that enjoys the kind of thinking that the book engages in, you may not really need to set aside a lot of time to read this post. You will find yourself too deeply engrossed to worry about the time :-)
The book is very unique and one of its kind. The core aspect of the book, in my view, is about the collective awakening to the purpose of mankind as a whole and each individual in it. It encourages both a solitude-based and collective-thought-based approach towards realizing where we are, what we are doing, and what we need to do. I see it to be an open-ended book that isn't really prescriptive. It declares that solutions will have to emerge through introspection and collective thinking. It introduces concepts and ideas that the reader later needs to chew in order to be able to apply. There is a spiritual and philosophical dimension to the book that corporates must not ignore.
I believe that whether the world listens or not is, among other things, determined by the source that it comes from. When someone who has accomplished a lot in the corporate world reveals some spiritual elements in his success, the world is bound to take notice. That way, I would not be surprised if this book has been very influential and changed the corporate world for the better. And I hope it continues to do so...
In the introductory chapter, the authors talk about organizations that "expand blindly, unaware of their part in a larger whole or of the consequences of their growth, like cells that have lost their social identity and reverted to growth for its own sake". This definitely struck a chord and also reminded me of our own busyness as individuals.
The authors also talk about today's educational systems as having been "inspired by industrial age school design with the aim of producing a uniform, standardized product as efficiently as possible"! How true and how revolting!!
They say "As long as our thinking is governed by habit - notably by concepts such as control, predictability, standardization and "faster is better" - we will continue to recreate institutions as they have been, despite their disharmony with the larger world, and the need for all living systems to evolve". We must understand that evolution is not necessarily about speed and volume!
"All learning integrates thinking and doing"
"Entrepreneurial ability is an expression of the capacity to sense an emerging reality and to act in harmony with it"
The authors quote the 'director' of the Truman Show in the movie The Truman Show "We all accept reality as it is presented to us"
The authors quote Michael Ray, the creator of the course on Creativity in Stanford - "1. Creativity is essential for health, happiness and success in all areas of life, including business. 2. Creativity is within everyone and 3. Even though it is within everyone, it is covered over by the voice of judgment."
"The challenges in organizations start with the frenetic pace many people feel compelled to maintain"
"When we're learning something new, we can feel awkward, incompetent, and even foolish"
The authors bring out the importance of knowing the 'whole' and the method to do that being the study of parts at length and seeing a reflection of the 'whole' therein.
The authors talk about coincidences in their own lives and those associated with the creation of the book and indicate that there is more to it than what meets the eye - They talk of an underlying force that works towards a single purpose.
They say that business leaders are those who know "how to distance themselves from the problem and to avoid knee-jerk reactions. They have developed the capacity to avoid imposing old frameworks on new realities". They talk about the need for suspension and redirection...the need for observing and 'slow' decision-making. I am going to reproduce a paragraph that appeals to me immensely - "If the situation is new, slowing down is necessary. Slow down. Observe. Position yourself. Then act fast and with a natural flow that comes from the inner knowing. You have to slow down long enough to really see what's needed. With a freshness of vision, you have the possibility of a freshness of action, and the overall response on a collective level can be much quicker than trying to implement hasty decisions that aren't compelling to people"
The authors derive a "theory" called Sensing-Presencing-Realizing. (observe. retreat and reflect. act swiftly with a natural flow.) This has also been referred to as Letting go and Letting come.
"True education.....is not to fill a barrel but to light a flame"
"When you discover what you're here for the forces of nature also operate in your service. When you see what you're here for, the world begins to mirror your purpose in a magical way. It's almost as if you suddenly find yourself on a stage in a play that was written expressly for you". Sounds like Coelho...
"Business growth should be sustainable and consistent with nature and consistent with life"
"Confrontations between even the most well-intentioned leaders usually just reinforce polarization"...!
"There's nothing more personal than vision, yet the visions that ultimately prove transformative have nothing to do with us as individuals" - a paradox
The authors quote GB Shaw "This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose you consider a mighty one, the being a force of nature, rather than a feverish, selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy"
"If you form and hold your intent strongly enough, it becomes true"
"If you know what's right, you don't have to make decisions. You just do it"
The authors quote Churchill "Leadership is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm"
The authors move on to provide convincing arguments in favour of prototyping (I believe this is in the context of pursuing our noble vision which is not likely to be crystal clear in the very beginning) - "Rapid prototyping is a way to avoid getting stuck in plans or trying to completely figure out 'the true nature of the emerginf whole'. Indeed, the true nature of an emerging whole can't be accessed fully without engaging in concrete experiments, improvisation and prototyping." "In its essence, prototyping accesses and aligns the wisdom of our head, heart and hands by forcing us to act before we've figured every-thing out and created a plan". The "essence of creative process" is to "create and adjust"
"Successful prototyping is something in between the extremes of either ignoring feedback or overreacting to every disconforming signal"
"If you're open in relation to your idea, the universe will help you. If you're open it wants to suggest ways for you to improve your idea"
The authors quote the founder of Gap Body "You have to have the vision and the deep intention that goes with it. But you also have to have the incredible capacity for self-observation and course correction in real time. The universe wants to help. But you must be able to observe and listen"
They say the true future is about seven steps/spaces - awareness, stopping, calmness, stillness, peace, true thinking, and attainment. It is a long, long, long process.
Here is a KMish set of statements:
"The leadership of the future will not be provided simply by individuals but by groups, institutions, communities and networks". "The most important thing going forward is to break the boundaries between people so we can operate as a single intelligence".
They say that the bane of the measurement culture is that "people start believing that something is real only to the extent that it is measurable". The authors opine that the soft stuff is often relegated to a secondary status and this is ironic as it is often the hardest to do well and the primary determinant of success or failure. (Relevant to KM again)
Stillness creates a capacity that no longer fragments who we really are from what's emerging.
A great reflection of where the world is heading these days; A participant in a workshop conducted by the authors is quoted as follows "I worry much more today about unquestioned answers than about unanswered questions".
The authors talk about people who pursue their deepest desires in harmony with the world as those dance with destiny but out of free choice or will. "You feel as if you're fulfilling your destiny, but you also feel as if you're freer than you've ever been in your life. It's a huge paradox"
An individual's cultivation, the authors opine, happens out of three things: "Meditation", "Study of the scriptures", "Committment to service"
At the end of the book, the authors share an awesome discovery (by a Japanese photographer) that water has intricate patterns in it that can be observed through sophisticated technology. What's more awesome is that the water patterns become extremely beautiful when the water is exposed to music and prayers. The authors thus try to prove that there is some mysterious cosmic law that revolves around vibrations. Subsequently, the authors derive the idea that "thought creates reality" from this phenomenon.
Overall, this is a sort of enchanting book touching upon eclectic aspects that can change the way we lead our lives. What it calls for us to adopt the book's teachings is the utilization of the authors' very own U theory - sense, presence and realize. (observe. stop and reflect. act.) I don't know if that sounds like a casual and matter-of-fact review. But like the authors point out in the book, this is a long, long, long process and I hope I have subconsciously let it begin within me. I think the trick is to really silence our minds, be still and absorb what comes to us without letting our prejudices and past impact our attitude.
Thanks to CZ for recommending this book! I hope there will be a time when I can come back to this post and you - CZ - to share what it ultimately leads me to. :-)