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Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity

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ISBN-13: 978-1605095219
ISBN-10: 1605095214
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers (September 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605095214
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605095219
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #894,844 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I've always been happiest when I'm learning, especially when it engages both my head and my heart. That may explain how I ended up with an undergraduate degree in drama and an MBA with an emphasis in finance.

I spent the first 17 years of my working life in software. I was a programmer, project manager, and a systems development manager. In 1993, I ran into "emergent change processes". They engage the people of a system in addressing what matters to them. Working with processes and people appealed to the part of me that found software wasn't enough. After experimenting with these processes in corporate settings, in 1996, I left organizational life to consult and pursue my quest to understand what made emergent change processes effective.

That first foray led to The Change Handbook (1999), co-edited with Tom Devane. The book, considered the "bible" for the field, provided 18 methodologies for engaging whole systems.

In addition to corporate clients, my consulting practice attracted government and nonprofits that wanted to engage civil society to find answers to complex questions.

In 2001, I joined three journalists to co-found Journalism that Matters (JTM). We bring together pioneers in the throes of emergence, as providing news and information experiences a death and re-birth. Working with such upheaval requires both head and heart!

In 2004, with social philosopher, Tom Atlee, and "evolutionary evangelist", Michael Dowd, I co-hosted an "Evolutionary Salon" - a gathering of scientists, spiritual leaders, and social activists to explore the implications of evolutionary emergence on human systems. After four salons, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation funded Tom and me in developing a model of evolution centered on the role of interaction. It deepened my understanding of emergence and convinced me there was something important to share.

Joined by Steven Cady, the second edition of The Change Handbook was published in 2007. Because the field has exploded, the book included over 60 methodologies. That growth inspired me to dive into the deeper patterns of these methods and connect them with a theory of emergence to create my latest book -- Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity.

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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie Nestlerode on August 15, 2010
Format: Paperback
From my perspective, what distinguishes Peggy Holman's work and makes it invaluable is the expanse that it covers ..... to understand any system, you need to look at the system above and the system below ... her books do that so beautifully .... for instance with The Change Handbook, it's not just a listing of tools ... but the context above and the decisions related to design ... and then the details of the tools ....

Once again in Engaging Emergence, she gives us guidance on what we can hang onto and what we need to let go of .... both big picture and little picture perspectives for staying grounded in turbulent times .... listening for what is emerging even as we work to maintain a solid container for our efforts .... native americans say that wisdom is knowing how to APPLY knowledge - weaving together just the right strands .... to serve the needs of the whole community ....Peggy has a gift for this!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Himes on March 30, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of the most important books I read this year was by Peggy Holman: Engaging Emergence; Turning Upheaval into Opportunity. As Peggy says in her blog, emergence is a process "through which order arises from chaos as the existing order is disrupted, differences appear, and a new coherence coalesces. By engaging emergence, you can help yourself and your organization or community to successfully face disruption and emerge stronger than ever." She advises: "Step up by taking responsibility for what you love as an act of service. Prepare to embrace mystery, choose possibility, and follow life-energy. Host others by clarifying intentions, welcoming disturbance, and inviting diversity. Engage by inquiring appreciatively, opening, and reflecting. Then do it again!"

At some point within the past 40 years or so, the Christian world embarked on an immense and historic reconfiguration that called into question the doctrinal and institutional assumptions that had held sway for hundreds of years. And by now, we are right smack in the middle of epochal changes. The struggles of a century ago between liberals and conservatives that led to the creation of modern fundamentalism after World War I are no longer relevant to the conversations that now resonate most powerfully for Christians. Dry arguments about dogma no longer compel desperate arguments or inspire movements. The United States is no longer a "Christian nation," and fortunately for Christianity, it never was. A new generation of Christians is asserting that the core teachings of Jesus are inherently universal and transnational, and can never--and should never--be owned or identified as the characteristic of any nation-state.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By R. Lubensky on October 4, 2010
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This is the sort of easy-to-read book that you want to leave lying around so others will find it accidentally. Maybe they'll recognise, as Peggy hopes, that modern life is not a predictable, steady state that is occasionally and annoyingly disrupted. Rather, life should be celebrated as an evolution of surprises, change and adaptation. Peggy provides us with a straightforward roadmap about how to constructively steward positive change.

But it won't be easy because we have to toss aside some culturally-engrained habits of thought. For example, uncertainty and being "out of control" should be accepted as relatively normal instead of as definitively bad. And "change management" is just an oxymoron.

She begins by describing emergent complexity, which I'll short-hand as the self-reconfiguration of a system in response to evolving needs. For the past quarter century, the narrative around human social complexity has gained public currency. But the apparent inevitability of complex change, perceived from the deterministic paradigm, still leaves people feeling victimised.

Peggy's book invites us to advance our thinking beyond merely coping with the unpredictable states that emerge out of complexity. We can construct our futures, but it requires an approach that differs from the simple cause-and-effect model with which we are most familiar. Peggy outlines the benefits, characteristics, dynamics and principles of engaging emergence.

The book is aimed particularly at people who are in a position to affect change in organisations or institutions. At the heart of the book is a moral and prescriptive five-step practice for engaging emergence.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Charles Thrasher on March 2, 2011
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A few years ago this book would probably have been incomprehensible to me--at most, academically interesting, chaos and complexity theory, the human ability to self-organize. Then Mid-Eastern dictatorships began to fall like stacked dominoes enabled by a network of communications as complex as a nervous systems. No one expected it. The abstract became real with a force like rolling thunder.

There is an old Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times. These are interesting times, uncertain times, chaotic times. If you base your expectations of the future solely upon the past, you're like to despair for humanity and the earth itself. Holman's point in this book is that higher orders of organization can emerge from complex systems. There is reason to hope and reason to act, to recognize and embrace what is emerging from the noise and confusion, from the dust of our collapsing expectations. There is no guarantee, no certainty of success, but we need hope in order to act or be paralyzed by fear.

We need new ways to understand ourselves and to act collaboratively. A lot of this book is about the methodologies being developed to do just that. The rest of the books is about why it's important. Some of her advice may sound paradoxical but our current wisdom is what has brought us to the edge of the abyss. A new wisdom is necessary to lead us back. That new wisdom may in fact be the oldest of all.
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