About Otto

Working to Support Awareness-Based Systems Change

Otto Scharmer, author of Theory U, Second Edition and co-author of the newly released Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-system to Eco-system Economies, is an action researcher who co-creates innovations in learning and leadership that he delivers through classes and programs at MIT, MITx u-lab, the Presencing Institute, the u-school for Transformation, and through innovation projects with organizations in business, government and civil society around the world.

Otto Scharmer is a Senior Lecturer in the MIT Sloan School of Management and co-founder of the Presencing Institute and the u-school for Transformation. He chairs the MIT IDEAS program for cross-sector innovation and introduced the concept of “presencing”—learning from the emerging future—in his bestselling books Theory U and Presence (the latter co-authored with Peter Senge and others). He is co-author of Leading from the Emerging Future, which outlines eight acupuncture points for transforming capitalism. His most recent book, The Essentials of Theory U (2018), summarizes the core principles and applications of awareness-based systems change.

In 2015 he co-founded the MITx u-lab and in 2020 the GAIA Journey (Global Activation of Intention and Action), which have activated a vibrant worldwide ecosystem of transformational change involving more than 200,000 users from 185 countries. Most recently, with his colleagues he co-created a global Action Learning Lab for hundreds of change makers across UN agencies, as well as a suite of SDG Leadership Labs that help UN Country Teams to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.

Otto earned his diploma and PhD in economics from Witten/Herdecke University in Germany. He is a member of the UN Learning Advisory Council for the 2030 Agenda, the World Future Council, and the Club of Rome’s High-Level 21st Century Transformational Economics Commission. He has won the Jamieson Prize for Teaching Excellence at MIT and the European Leonardo Corporate Learning Award. In 2021 he received the Elevating Humanity Award from the Organizational Development Network.


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UN Learning Advisory Council for the 2030 Agenda

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World Future Council

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Club of Rome’s High-Level 21st Century Transformational Economics Commission


Otto Scharmer is the inaugural recipient of the Elevating Humanity Award from the Organization Development (OD) Network. Scharmer is credited with directly inspiring this new annual award by championing the Organization Development “countermovement” against the traditional profit-centric management approach, “bringing humanity back into focus” with his book Theory U and, as co-founder of the Presencing Institute, “elevating humankind on a global scale through the Presencing Institute’s collective effort to help oppressed, marginalized, impoverished, and fractured populations” (Professor Bill Brendel, OD Network Board Trustee). More information on the impact of Scharmer’s work can be found in the award announcement in this OD Network News article.   


Scharmer wins award for “elevating humankind”


Scharmer receives Leonardo Award

Otto Scharmer has received the Leonardo Award 2016 in Thought Leadership, a Leonardo European Corporate Learning Award addressing the “future of learning.” The award recognizes the value and contribution of Scharmer’s management method “Theory U.” More information on the impact of Scharmer’s work can be found in the award announcement in this article.

Otto Scharmer and Dimitris Bertsimas were each awarded the 2015 Jamieson Prize for Excellence in Teaching, established to honor educational innovation and excellence. The Jamieson Prize for Excellence in Teaching Award is the most prestigious teaching prize offered by the School. The award was established in 2006 and is awarded each year to two MIT Sloan faculty members, as well as two electrical engineering and computer science faculty members, for their contributions to educational excellence at MIT. You can read the article here.


Scharmer wins Jamieson Prize

Fourteen MIT Sloan faculty members to follow on Twitter



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