I bought the book Presence by Peter Senge, et al. because its title promised to illuminate an approach to change Tim Flood and I developed, based on the premise that staying completely within metaphors is an exciting and powerful way to bring about transformational change, and metaphor-driven change work requires being fully present. But what is "presence"?
"We first thought of presence as being fully conscious and aware in the present moment. Then we began to appreciate presence as deep listening, of being open beyond one's preconceptions and historical ways of making sense. We came to see the importance of letting go of old identities and the need to control... leading to a state of 'letting come,' of consciously participating in a larger field for change..." (Presence, pp. 13-14).
In other words, spontaneous presence is absent of all preconceived notions, all self-talk, all assumptions and beliefs. It is trust in a "knowing" that has nothing to do with logical efforts. This knowing is absolute, unmistakable, and has a kind of magical quality: "Wow! Where did that come from?"
The authors of Presence give a number of business examples, including that of Visa International. "Amidst a growing perception in the late 1960s that the whole credit card industry was doomed, a small group of Visa executives realized the system they'd created could never solve the problems to which it had given rise. They had to abandon their traditional organizational models and banking jargon. They needed a change in consciousness. Then CEO Dee Hock awoke one morning asking himself if an organization could be patterned on biological concepts so it could continually organize and invent itself. Visa is now organized as a network of more than twenty thousand member-owned institutions... " (pp. 170-171).
An example of my own experience with presence occurred as Tim and I were finalizing the materials for an IEA conference playshop about metaphors. We wanted to keep people moving and out of their left-brain preconceptions, so we envisioned notebooks that could hang from ribbons around their necks. We used every kind of logic to figure out the length of the ribbon, how to attach a pen, etc., but no matter what we did, when testing the prototype the ribbon pulled the binding loose from the notebooks.
Finally, when we were feeling "brain dead" (a good thing, as it turned out), I started laughing hysterically. Tim thought I'd gone completely off my rocker. When I could speak, I shared the image of a kangaroo with a pouch, my internal judge translating it as something "silly." But as I slept that night my self-critic also slept, and I awakened the next morning with the clear image of a two-pocket folder that could be converted, with a little snipping, into two "pouches." We had our solution.