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Engaging Emergence

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. 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. 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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About the Author

Peggy Holman is founder of the Open Circle Company, a management consultancy for business, nonprofit, and governmental organizations; cofounder of Journalism That Matters, an initiative that supports pioneers in the emerging news and information ecosystem; and coauthor of The Change Handbook.


"In Engaging Emergence Peggy Holman does the best job yet of showing us how managers and change agents can use the insights of complexity theory for planned, transformational change. Highly readable and practical, Holman provides useful, concrete illustrations that make it easy to understand a difficult topic." --Gervase Bushe, Professor of Leadership and Organization Development, Segal Graduate School of Business, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada and author of Clear Leadership Our times requite new levels of understanding. Courageous, creative, collaborative -- read emergent -- processes are key to getting there. Peggy Holman's new book helps us appreciate why such process are needed, how they work, and what it takes to get them to happen. It makes important contribution. --Charles Johnston, MD, author of The Creative Imperative and Hope and the Future "Emergence and its associated chaos are happening at an accelerating pace. Ms. Holman offers practical perspectives for working with Emergence creatively as a source of opportunity." --James B. Shaffer, Chief Operating Officer and Dean, School of Business, University of Southern Maine For those who feel battered by change and chaos, Peggy Holman's book is a tonic. The intelligent, optimistic and caring voice with which she facilitates complex, even contentious groups in transition permeates the pages. Engaging Emergence is at once pragmatic and palliative -- good for the mind and heart. --Jill Geisler, Group Leader, Leadership and Management Programs, The Poynter Institute Russell Ackoff wrote: "The only thing harder than starting something new, is stopping something old. Peggy Holman's "Engaging Emergence" gives us hope that we can step beyond the irrelevant entrainment of the past, bring forward what is useful and effectively operate into the uncertain and unknown future. Recognizing that not all of us thrive on uncertainty and ambiguity, Peggy helps ground is in useful ideas to embrace and thrive into our futures. By giving language to the practice of engaging emergence, she also lifts us beyond a theoretical idea to a place of useful practice. --Nancy White, author of Digital Habitats "Engaging Emergence is a crucial guide for navigating transitional moments in social systems -- from group upsets and business challenges to global financial meltdowns. Holman brilliantly applies a 14-billion-year historical perspective in ways that give us the eyes to see opportunity amid chaos, the heart to trust the process, and the mental toolkit to effectively nurture evolutionary breakthroughs." --Connie Barlow, author of Evolution Extended "This book is most relevant and will be of great service to change agents attempting to bring about complex transformative change - the type of change needed to successfully reinvent our world and the major task of humanity at this moment in time. Thank you for stepping up to the challenge of grounding this elusive concept into an actual change strategy." --David Gershon, president, Empowerment Institute and author of Social Change 2.0

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