November 21, 2011
Barbados Group Working Paper
Werner Erhard is an original thinker whose ideas have transformed the effectiveness and quality of life for millions of people and thousands of organizations around the world. For nearly 50 years he has been the creator of innovative ideas and models of individual, organizational, and social transformation. His work has been the source of new perspectives for thinkers and practitioners in fields as diverse as business, education, philosophy, medicine, psychotherapy, developing countries, leadership, conflict resolution, and community building. Erhard has created new ways of seeing things in areas where progress has stalled or where breakthroughs would make a significant difference. A majority of the Fortune 100 companies and many foundations and governmental entities have used his ideas and models. Fortune magazine’s 40th anniversary issue (5/15/95), in examining the major contributions to management thinking, recognized Erhard’s ideas as one of the major innovations of the last few decades. In recognition of his humanitarian work in the U.S. and around the world, in 1988 Erhard was awarded the Mahatma Gandhi Humanitarian Award.
Since 2002 Erhard has committed his time and intellectual effort almost exclusively to the academic world. Some of his recent research, writings, lectures, and courses can be accessed from his author page in the Social Sciences Research Network – http://ssrn.com/author=433651, and most recently in the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) http://www.nber.org/papers/w19986. More than three million people around the world have participated in the public, corporate, charitable, and academic programs and courses he has created.
Erhard’s ideas were first introduced to the public through programs derived from his models, which programs included The est Training and The Forum of the 1970s and 1980s. Social scientist Daniel Yankelovich said of a large-scale study he conducted of participants of The Forum: “Several of the study’s findings surprised me quite a bit, especially the large number of participants for whom The Forum proved to be ‘one of the most valued experiences of my life’. This is not a sentiment that people, especially successful, well-educated people, express lightly.”
Erhard is largely self-educated, albeit with tutoring from some important thinkers of his time, including: Gregory Bateson, Warren Bennis, Isaiah Berlin, Hubert Dreyfus, David Eagleman, Heinz von Foerster, Richard Feynman, Fernando Flores, Ronald Heifetz, Michel Foucault, Milton Friedman, Humberto Maturana, James Grier Miller, Sir Karl Popper, Karl H. Pribram and Hilary Putnam (Erhard says any of his errors are his sole responsibility). Quotes from others who tutored Erhard: Professor of Philosophy, Michael E. Zimmerman said of Erhard “He had no particular formal training in anything, but he understood things as well as anyone I’d ever seen; and I’ve been around a lot of smart people in academia. This is an extraordinary intellect I saw at work”. Stanford theoretical physicist Leonard Susskind wrote, "I met Hawking and Gerard ’t Hooft in the attic of Werner Erhard’s house in San Francisco. Erhard was a fan of Sidney Coleman. Dick Feynman, myself, and David Finkelstein were his gurus. He was very, very smart.” Eminent Harvard economist and long-time co-author Michael Jensen said he considers Erhard “one of the great intellectuals of the century.”
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Date posted: August 7, 2010 ; Last revised: February 12, 2016