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Accepted Paper:

Prophets and profits: reflections on the promises and poetics of 'management gurus'  
Jakob Krause-Jensen (Aarhus University) Karen Lisa Salamon (University of Copenhagen)

Paper short abstract:

Management gurus have considerable influence over personal and organizational visions and practices. In this paper we will explore the prophetic powers of ‘management gurus’ through the study of Otto Scharmer’s ‘Theory U: leading from the future as it emerges: the social technology of presencing’.

Paper long abstract:

'Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world' (Shelley 1994 [1820]: 660), wrote English romantic poet Shelley almost 200 years ago. In many ways that epithet fits today's management gurus, whose prophecies and forecasts often address spiritual development and move far beyond organisational restructuring to shape the perspectives and practices of large audiences in contemporary Western societies. As ethnographers who study business organisations, we are fascinated and challenged by the prophecies, poetics, and performance - the persuasive powers —of management gurus and we suggest that anthropology might offer strategies and concepts to understand them. In this paper we want to explore Otto Scharmer's 'Theory U: leading from the future as it emerges: the social technology of presencing' (2007) as an example of a particular form of anticipatory knowledge characterized by the fusion of Romanticist ideas of self-discovery with instrumentalist and rationalist management strategies of goal oriented productivity.

Panel P110
Anticipatory knowledge: prognostics and prophecy in management and governance
  Session 1