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Human Purpose and the Field of the Future
by Peter Senge, Claus Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, and Betty Sue Flowers


Across the ideological spectrum, in boardrooms and over coffee, within environmental organizations and multinationals, one insistent question keeps tugging at the edges of human consciousness and conscience: Will we wake up in time? And what if this wasn't just a frightening thought, but was instead a real—and urgent—question: Will we awaken to new ways of seeing each other and working together before we bring about a real disaster?

The four authors of the recently released Presence took that question very seriously. It motivated them to begin a profound and personal exploration into the nature of real change. For Peter Senge, organizational change guru and author of the blockbuster The Fifth Discipline, this meant paying close attention to those moments when individuals and organizations tap into deeper capacities for creative transformation. For researcher Otto Scharmer and American Leadership Forum founder Joseph Jaworski, it meant conducting some 150 interviews with creative scientists and entrepreneurs to learn how successful innovation arises. And for Betty Sue Flowers, a specialist in myth, it meant exploring the power of envisioning new futures. For all of them, it meant reaching for a new way to understand the depth and complexity of who we are and what confronts us. Together, through a series of conversations that took place over the course of a year and a half, they began to recognize an emergence in human consciousness: the capacity to “presence”—to pre-sense, to become present to an emerging future that is our highest purpose and potential.

Presence, part fictitious reenactment of their conversations and part exploration of all that points to this new emergence, is the result of this remarkable collaboration. Published by the Society for Organizational Learning (, which was founded by Senge, the book is a creative synthesis of their work with the latest in science, organizational theory, and sacred wisdom. Here, in the excerpt that follows, is the first “conversation” between the authors, their call to all of us to wake up—before it's too late.


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This article is from
Our Collective Intelligence Issue


May–July 2004