A Breakthrough in Individual and Social Transformation

Presentation By Werner Erhard At The Eranos Conference 2006
Ascona, Switzerland
18 June 2006

While I was asked to speak about individual and social transformation, I will start by talking about knowing.

Think of the circle I have drawn here as containing all knowledge. The circle is divided into three sections. The first section of all knowledge is called, “What I know that I know.” We all know what to do with what we know that we know – we put it to use. The next section of all knowledge is called, “What I know that I don’t know.” Again, we all know what to do with what we know that we don’t know – we learn. Finally, there is this vast remaining section of all knowledge called, “What I don’t know that I don’t know.” What to do about what we don’t know that we don’t know is something of a dilemma. And, what we don’t know that we don’t know about human beings is an important question when it comes to individual and social transformation.

I am reminded of a physics paper entitled “Chaos” that I read some years ago about the discovery of the chaotic nature of certain physical phenomena, where a small input could result in a very large scale output, while a large scale input could result in a very small output. As I read the article it occurred to me that chaos theory certainly applied to human beings. For example, with very little said, a person might get massively upset, while years of training have very little impact on some people. Chaos theory was followed by complexity theory where, to oversimplify somewhat, the whole was not merely the sum of the parts, but the sum of the parts plus the interaction between the parts. Again, complexity certainly applies to human beings.

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Four Ways of Being that Create the Foundations of A Great Personal Life, Great Leadership and A Great Organization

“We argue here that the four factors we identify as constituting the foundation for being a leader and the effective exercise of leadership can also be seen as the foundations not only for great leadership, but also for a high quality personal life and an extraordinary organization. One can see this as a “value free” approach to values because, 1) integrity as we define it (being whole and complete) is a purely positive proposition, 2) authenticity is also a purely positive proposition (being and acting consistent with who you hold yourself out to be for others and who you hold yourself to be for yourself), 3) being committed to something bigger than oneself is also a purely positive proposition (that says nothing about what that commitment should be other than it be bigger than oneself), and 4) being cause in the matter as a declaration of the stand you take for yourself regarding everything in your life is also a purely positive proposition”

Werner Erhard and Michael C. Jensen

Your power is a function of velocity

Your power is a function of velocity, that is to say, your power is a function of the rate at which you translate intention into reality. Most of us disempower ourselves by finding a way to slow, impede, or make more complex than necessary the process of translating intention into reality.

There are two factors worth examining in our impairing velocity, in our disempowering ourselves.

The first is the domain of reasonableness. When we deal with our intentions or act to realize our intentions from reasonableness, we are in the realm of slow, impede and complicate. When we are oriented around the story or the narrative, the explanations, the justifications, we are oriented around that in which there is no velocity, no power.

Results are black and white. In life, one either has results (one’s intentions realized) or one has the reason, story, explanations, and justifications. The person of power does not deal in explanations. This way of being might be termed management by results (not management for results but management by results). The person of power manages him or herself by results and creates a space or mood of results in which to interact with others.

The other factor to be addressed is time. Now never seems to be the right time to act. The right time is always in the future. Usually this appears in the guise of “after I (or we) do so and so, then it will be the right time to act”; or “after so and so occurs, then it will be the right time to act”; or “when so and so occurs, then it will be the right time to act.” The guise includes “gathering all the facts,” “getting the plan down,” “figuring out ‘X’,” “getting ready,” etc.

Since now is the only time you have in reality and now will never seem to be the right time to act, one may as well act now. Even though “it isn’t the right time,” given that the “right time” will never come, acting now is, at the least, powerful (even if you don’t get to be right). Most people wait for the decisive moment, whereas people of power are decisive in the moment. – Werner Erhard

By Werner Erhard, March 21, 1983

Werner Erhard Interviews Artists and Thinkers

Werner Erhard Interviews Artists and Thinkers

Saturday Satellite Seminar Program

Every era has a relatively small number of original and influential persons, those who generate initiative, discoveries, achievements and insights which shape our own cultures and societies — and often those of future generations. If we know these people well, it is through their works: their campaigns and institutions, their books and inventions, their vaccines, their symphonies, their monuments and their firms.

The Saturday Satellite Series with Werner Erhard was a program designed to give us a new access to such people — a glimpse of the commitments and visions that inform such lives, and that serve as the source of their creations. The series was conducted as a dialogue between Werner Erhard and prominent guest speakers who are widely recognized for their achievements and expertise. These dialogues were designed not to present particular views, but to open an inquiry that elicits creative thinking and productive action from and for all participants.

Each session provided a platform for speakers to generate their own discussion, to share influences and experiences, to pose provocative questions, and to allow participants to share in a candid, dynamic and creative exchange. By way of these dialogues, the Satellite Series offered new perspectives, new insights and new ways of approaching key public issues and concerns.

Broadcast live to thousands of participants throughout the United States, each series focused on a particular theme, exploring key principles and assumptions and leading-edge insights that govern the relevant fields.

Leading public figures being interviewed included Alice Cahana, Robert Reich, Milton Friedman, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milton Friedman, Mike Wallace, Stephen Jay Gould, James Burke, Andrew Tobias, and Senator Daniel Inouye. These interviews are available in their entirety at http://wernererhardvideo.com/

Werner Erhard, host and moderator of the Series, has dedicated his life to transforming people’s experience of what is possible for human beings, and their ability to act on that possibility.

Werner Erhard Information

Werner H. Erhard is an internationally renowned figure of our time. He is the originator of the unique model of transformational learning that has helped shaped human consciousness in the last quarter of the 20th century. One of the great thinkers of the modern era, he has impacted, for decades, the areas of individual and organizational effectiveness throughout the world.

Time Magazine, March 7, 2011, said of Erhard: “The American obsession with Transformation isn’t new. It’s about as old as the nation. But it was Werner Erhard who created the first modern transformation when he founded est seminars in 1971. It’s a tribute to the power of his central concept that more than 20 years after he sold his ideas to a group of employees Landmark is still the natural first stop in any transformation tour.” [Excerpted from “Change We Can (Almost) Believe In” by Nathan Thornburgh.]



Werner Erhard

Werner Erhard es el creador de modelos transformacionales y aplicaciones para la transformación individual, social y de la organización. Sus innovadoras ideas han estimulado conversaciones académicas en muchas universidades, más recientemente en las áreas de integridad, liderazgo y desempeño. Werner Erhard ha disertado en Harvard University, Yale University, Escuela de Negocios Simon de la Universidad de Rochester y Erasmus University. Leer más…



Managing Time

One of the fundamental aspects of unworkability in the world is time. That’s the first lie. That’s the first apparency. That’s the beginning of the end of the truth. Time. You need to master time to have any mastery in the world. People who are at the effect of time, people who can’t create time, people who can’t manage time, people who can’t move time around, people who can’t handle time, people who are overwhelmed by time, have no mastery and no basis for mastery. The basis for mastery in the world is being able to handle time. So what we’re talking about instead of some new problem to handle is an enormous opportunity to create a context in the space, in a sense, and in an environment of workability. And that environment’s generated out of a mastery of time.

If you attempt to take a computer approach to the control, efficacy, workability, results, viability, and getting the job done, what you wind up with is a clear statement that an organization is driven by its scheduling. And you know about computers? When you take a computer approach you have to break things down to the smallest possible, controllable variable. Computers are absolutely stupid. They have to reduce things to absolute know-ability. There are no black boxes. You’ve got to know what’s happening. So a computer approach forces you to tell the truth; to look at what’s actually happening. You’ve got to get all your attitudes out of the way and all of your leaps of faith and all of your beliefs and all of the things you thought were true and all of the things that everybody knows are true and start dealing with the basic, raw, hard, little facts. Then you have to see the basic, stupid, simple way that those facts relate to each other. In other words, you’ve got to get clear about it.

Now what we’ve got is a bunch of people trying to be geniuses about something that doesn’t require any genius. We’ve been wasting people’s genius on stuff that could get handled by discipline and work. If you’ve got any genius, you aren’t ever going to get to use it unless you can discipline yourself and work. You know, work.

Work, it’s when you sit down or stand up and go to work. You literally confront things and handle things. You start at the beginning and you work your way through step-by-step until you get to the end. That’s what work is. You start at the beginning and you work step by step until you get to the end. And you don’t skip steps, you don’t explain steps way, and you don’t look in your head to find out what’s so about steps. You start at the beginning, you take every one of the steps between the beginning and end, and you stick at it. You put your nose against the grindstone with respect to it, you stick at it, work on it until you get to the end. You handle each one of the steps. You don’t leave any one out. You don’t jump over any one. That’s how you do work. You do work by being systematic and methodical. And people who can discipline themselves to be systematic and methodical have enough of themselves left over to express and contribute and use their genius.

See, it’s like people are real confused about what’s going on. All these things to do and there’s all this work to be done. All these results to get accomplished and all these people here and all this stuff and all these plans and all these words and “Gee, I don’t …” …. JUST GO TO WORK! Everything will clear up. Start disciplining yourself. Start keeping your agreements. Discipline yourself to keep your agreements and you go back to where you work, sit down and go to work. That means start at the beginning, cover all the steps between the beginning and the end, do it completely, don’t mess around in your head about it. Go to it, step by step, systematically, until you get to the end. You will have then performed work. Which results in productivity. Any small amount of which will leave some room for a contribution. Without which there is no room for contribution. Real simple. Get out of your head. Cut out all that explanation about the difficulty. And your complaints and criticisms and what we need and what we don’t need. What we need right now is for people to go to work.


From an est Staff Meeting on June 10, 1980

Paradigm Thinking and Productivity

PARADIGM THINKING, properly applied, leads to tangible results.

JMW Consultants, a New York based management consulting consulting firm, helps companies boost productivity through paradigm shifts with an approach called “Productivity Breakthrough Technology.  They were called in by a major computer manufacturer to help deal with a crisis.

The manufacturer was trying to get an important product out in order to take advantage of a rapidly closing marketing window. If the team of software developers responsible for the project continued the development process at their current rate – a rate that was in line with industry standards – the product would not be ready on time. If the company hired more programmers to speed up the process, they would exceed their budget. Clearly, a breakthrough was needed.

After working with JMW, the software team began to double their previous productivity. The breakthrough enabled the company to get the product out in time – and save more than $100 million over the next three years.

JMW did not teach the team new techniques for developing software. Instead they helped them shift their paradigm. In their old paradigm, the rule was “X (the predictable) amount of work in X amount of time.” The new paradigm was stated as a possibility – “Y (the required) amount of work in X amount of time.”

“The shift was to create a future – the one they needed – as a possibility, not as a prediction,” says Werner Erhard, who founded a national affiliation of management consultants with which JMW is associated. “At that point, no one knew how to do it, but they could still create the possibility.

Because there was now a new paradigm in which to see the work, the team began seeing the job of developing software differently. They then were able to generate a commitment to that possibility.”

Erhard points out that when a breakthrough is needed, what is often called for is the development of a new paradigm.

“Changing the paradigm does not negate the need for realistic, hard-headed thinking, ” he says. “In ‘business as usual’ we get clear about the situation to determine what we can do and what we can’t.

But to produce a breakthrough, you have to stand the usual approach on its head.”

The process begins with inventing a new possibility, without regard to whether you know what to do to realize it. You then look back at the situation from the standpoint of that new possibility.

“That is what gives you the new perspective and what allows you to see the situation in a way you haven’t seen it before,” says Erhard. “That is the beginnings of generating a new paradigm.” At some point in the process, he says, it will be evident that you have come up with the best paradigm for a breakthrough in that situation.

“Productivity breakthroughs are a product of seeing something in a new way, which enables you to see new opportunities and new openings for action that you couldn’t see before,” he adds. “Breakthroughs come as a result of shifting your commitment from the predictable future to a possible future.”


Reprinted from the Fall 1989 issue of Benchmark Magazine, a publication of Xerox Corporation

Instead of looking for a great leader, we are in an era where each of us needs to find the great leader in ourselves

If you are empowered, you suddenly have a lot of work to do because you have the power to do it. If you are unempowered, you are less dominated by the opportunities in front of you. In other words, you have an excuse to not do the work. You have a way out. You have the security of being able to do what you have always done and get away. If you are empowered, suddenly you must step out, innovate and create. The cost, however, of being unempowered is people’s self-expression. They always have the feeling that they have something in them that they never really gave, never really expressed. By simply revealing the payoffs and costs of being unempowered, people have a choice. They can begin to see that it is possible to make the choice to be empowered rather than to function without awareness. Empowerment requires a breakthrough and in part that breakthrough is a kind of shift from looking for a leader to a sense of personal responsibility. The problems we now have in communities and societies are going to be resolved only when we are brought together by a common sense that each of us is visionary. Each of us must come to the realization that we can function and live at the level of vision rather than following some great leader’s vision. Instead of looking for a great leader, we are in an era where each of us needs to find the great leader in ourselves.

Werner Erhard, Scene Magazine/September-October 1982

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