Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval Into Opportunity

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Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2010 - Business & Economics - 241 pages
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In Engaging Emergence, change specialist Peggy Holman reframes how we deal with chaos and change. Chaos comes in many forms, from failing companies to a failing economy, from failing health to a failing health care system. Increasing numbers of leaders and change agents face complex challenges and don't know how to solve them. Some feel stuck or overwhelmed by the accelerating urgency of the conflicts and challenges facing their organizations, communities, families, or even themselves.Some have too many choices, while others see no choices at all. Familiar strategies often lead to dead ends, leaving leaders and change agents seeking alternatives. Engaging Emergence outlines how we can optimize the conditions for "emergence," which is nature's way of creating complex order from disorder. The changes we experience seem disorderly because we can't discern meaningful patterns; we only see unpredictable interactions among diverse agents in a given context. But order is accessible, like potential energy, waiting for diverse people facing intractable challenges to uncover and implement ideas that none could have predicted or accomplished on their own. Understanding the phenomenon of emergence can help leaders to gracefully and successfully cope with change and emerge stronger and more purposeful. In her book, Holman gives a useful theory a practical twist. The book is designed is to walk people through useful ways of thinking about upheaval, the potential it contains as a source of emergent change, why understanding emergence is so critical now, what emergence means, and how to engage it productively. Holman provides practical insights into working with change at any scale, within oneself, with others in small groups, organizations, communities, or whole systems, such as education, health care, journalism, and politics. Engaging Emergence is filled with stories of collapse and renewal; for visual learners, a handful of images clarify interconnections among elements of theory and practice. Our survival in an increasingly unpredictable world is at stake, and working consciously with emergence is a promising pathway to doing something about it. Emergence can't be forced but it can be fostered. This book attempts to show leaders how.
 

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Contents

From Chaos to Coherence
1
PART I The Nature of Emergence
13
PART II Practices for Engaging Emergence
43
PART III Principles for Engaging Emergence
113
PART IV Three Questions for Engaging Emergence
151
Whats Possible Now?
181
SUMMARY OF KEY IDEAS
191
ABOUT EMERGENT CHANGE PROCESSES
201
NOTES
213
GLOSSARY
219
BIBLIOGRAPHY
223
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
227
INDEX
230
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
240
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About the author (2010)

Peggy Holman is a management and training consultant for business, non-profit, and governmental organizations. She is a co-founder and board member of the Open Space Institute, which supports learning and practices for self-organization in our social systems. She collaborated in creating “Journalism that Matters,” a network of conversations among journalists that is generating new roles and organizational forms for today's emerging information-sharing, open source society. She also developed a theory of emergence in social systems that describes how diversity and dissonance can bring forth emergent insights, deep community, and coherent action. Peggy Holman is a co-author of the first and second editions of The Change Handbook: The Definitive Resource on Today's Best Methods for Engaging Whole Systems.

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