Leonardo Award

Leonardo Thought Leadership: Dr. C. Otto Scharmer

Dr. C. Otto Scharmer

Dr. C. Otto Scharmer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MIT Sloan School of Management

Leonardo “Thought Leadership” focuses on contributions which are of tremendous intellectual value to help us understand better - in reference to the UNESCO´s four pillars of learning in the 21st century - how we are “learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be”. This kind of laying out theoretical foundations is by no means to be mistaken for simply giving recipes to be copied and applied all over. On the contrary, “Thought Leadership” is about challenging us in our prevailing assumptions and encourages us to not hide away from fundamentally new assessments and conclusions if urged by ever changing circumstances. In this respect the practical value is even more important.

The jury says:

“With kind introduction by Professor Wim Veen and other colleagues of the board well acquainted with your work, we learnt how excellent you actually live this kind of leadership. It feels almost logical to focus on your work in this chain of prominent thought leaders we awarded in the last years with Prof. Jacques Delors, Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia), Prof. H.-J. Bullinger (Fraunhofer Society), Prof. Dorothy A Leonard (Harvard Business School) and Prof. Hasso Plattner (Hasso-Plattner-Insitute). Applying “awareness of awareness” on thought leadership itself reflects the kind of urgently needed companionship on the journey of co-creating a meaningful future by a frame of leadership that enables rather than rules. This approach is not a fancy new methodology but is based on deep holistic analysis what the disconnections in our world are and the choices we have to take to tackle the challenges resulting from them. Addressing diverse problems related to often competing disciplines is not an alarmist compendium of a world in trouble but rather a guidance to conclude from observed interdependence to coherent action taking. This approach results in references to the Vitruvian Man and the square and the circle Leonardo was enthusiastic about. You visualize this holistic view in making us see the “acupuncture points”, because you want to emphasize that transformation requires interrelated system interventions. Reflecting the public debate following the financial meltdown you observed: “The crisis of our time is not about financial or economic bankruptcy the real crisis of our time is about an intellectual bankruptcy: the bankruptcy of main stream economic thought”. (Oxford leadership journal, 2010).

You turned it to a positive view, arguing for the shift from EGO to ECO based on your U-Theory asking the key powerful question: How do we lead from the emerging future? Based on this conviction of systemic awareness you linked your thoroughly academic research to taking practical action and inspiring people to get involved. The scope of your important interventions is too broad to be acknowledged adequately in this letter, reaching from guidance for GIZ to WEF, connecting o2o, online to offline with MOOCs. The emotional dimension of it is perfectly expressed by one participant of the u-lab: “Think about it - conversations, meditation and connection between 75,000 different people from 185 countries. Simultaneously. And yes, it was as amazing as it sounds. With the Leonardo award we are eager to promote this kind of thought and attitude” We hope for your consent to use together with you our platform to – in a small way – add to the stimulation of this needed mind-shift. We expect impact also on how corporate learning in 21st century might develop in a meaningful way.”

Short bio:
Dr. C. Otto Scharmer, PhD (summa cum laude) from Witten/Herdecke
Senior Lecturer at MIT
Professor for Thousand Talents Program at Tsinghua University
Co-Founder of the Prescencing-Institute
Chairs the MIT IDEAS program for cross-innovation in China and Indonesia
Introduced the concept of “presencing” – learning from the emerging future in his bestseller
“Theory U and Presence (co-authored with P. Senge et. al)
His book “Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-system to Eco-system” (co-authored with K. Kaufer) applies the concept of mindfulness to the transformation of capitalism.

2015 he co-founded MITxu.lab, a massive open online course (MOOC) to enable transformational leadership to self-organized communities in over 185 countries.
2015 Otto Scharmer received the Jamieson Prize for Excellence in Teaching at MIT