Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week for 6 weeks, 3 hours / session


Dr. Claus Otto Scharmer, MIT Senior Lecturer and Founding Chair of the Presencing Institute

Course Description

This interactive and experiential class is about leading profound innovation for pioneering a more sustainable economy and society. It focuses on the intertwined relationship of the following three questions:

  1. Capitalism 3.0: How can capitalism evolve from its current forms (1.0, 2.0) to an emerging future form (3.0) that creates well-being for all?
  2. Multi-stakeholder innovation: What leadership does it take to create profound innovation in the context of complexity and multiple stakeholders?
  3. Presencing: How can people access their best or authentic self — their highest future possibility — and “act from” that heightened state of awareness in the now?

The class is organized around three main threads:

  1. Personal reflection practices: Each class will introduce a specific reflection practice that will help participants to generate the leadership knowledge that matters most: self-knowledge (Who am I? What is the purpose of my journey?).
  2. Relational practices: Each class will also focus on distinct relational practices that hone the leadership capacities of deep listening, precise observation, and dialogue.
  3. Societal practices: The third thread deals with the current transformation of capitalism (“capitalism 3.0”), sustainability, and our role in multi-sector leadership for profound system-wide innovation and change.

In order to “explore the future by doing,” each student will develop a prototype initiative that connects the three threads — the personal, relational, and systemic dimensions.

This course is open to all MBA, MIT and non-MIT students. No special requirements or applications are necessary.

Course Objectives

This course is designed to create three types of knowledge:

  • Conceptual knowledge: key concepts are sustainability and awareness-based leadership (Theory U)
  • Practical knowledge: new tools and practices that help people become better listeners, communicators, and leaders
  • Self-knowledge: the most important dimension of all great leadership — Who am I? What am I here for? What am I going to do with the rest of my life?

Key Ideas

  • Effective leadership involves the capabilities of sense-making, developing relationships, visioning, and inventing new ways of organizing.
  • The keys in sense-making are precise observation, deep listening, and tuning in to emerging patterns.
  • All profound innovation and creativity involves some deeper understanding and knowledge of your Self.
  • Leaders who change the world need to investigate the two root questions of creativity: Who is my Self? What is my Work?
  • In a rapidly changing world, creating the future involves rapid prototyping rather than long-term planning.
  • To make social responsibility in business work, leaders need to develop the skill of facilitating collaboration among key actors from all three sectors: business, government, and civil society.
  • You cannot solve today’s leadership problems with the same level of consciousness that created them (paraphrasing Einstein).
  • Leaders must know themselves and their context, and understand the types of changes that can transform society and self.

Required Text

Scharmer, C. Otto. Theory U: Leading From the Future As It Emerges. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler, 2009. ISBN: 9781576757635.

Resource Web site

Presencing Institute: Transforming Capitalism


This will be a pass/fail course. In order to pass, you must attend all class sessions. In addition, each student must (a) participate in and facilitate results in a self-organized project, (b) write a weekly reflection report (one page), and (c) write a final reflection paper on some key lessons and observations within two weeks of the end of the course. The final reflection paper should be 2 to 5 pages in length.

Students who sit in on part of the class, or who miss days or parts of days, will not receive credit.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2010
Learning Resource Types
Activity Assignments
Written Assignments