Where did Werner Erhard’s ideas about transformation come from?


Werner Erhard is known as one of the pioneers and foremost leaders of the personal training industry.  Having introduced the breakthrough notion of “transformation” to the general public over 40 years ago, Werner Erhard’s ideas about transformation subsequently came to be seen as a powerful, practical, and relevant resource in contemporary society, particularly in business and academia.  In the early days starting in 1971, Werner Erhard’s ideas of transformation manifested into the overwhelmingly popular est Training.  The est Training was delivered to over a million people in a 10 year period. 

The programs and work of Werner Erhard focused on personal responsibility, integrity and leadership.  Werner Erhard was influenced by a collection of the times and circumstances, including the 60’s, the turn of a decade, and an immersion in such great philosophers as Wittgenstein and Heidegger. Werner Erhard’s ideas and his ability to share these ideas were and remain uniquely his own.  As with many new ideas, paradigms or thinkers, we try to answer the question: where did the ideas come from?  Mostly the answers can only be attributed to an individual with an original thought and an effective way of conveying it to people and organizations such that those people and organizations have access to a new paradigm.  This is certainly the case with Werner Erhard.

In the 1960’s an entire generation was looking for answers.  Werner Erhard stated, "It was in the late 60's and early 70's that I began a quest into the nature and function of being for human beings." In pursuit of that quest Erhard developed as a researcher and an original thinker. Werner Erhard, while remaining rooted in his Episcopalian upbringing, tried on every discipline, practice and theory available to him. He said later:

"Of all the disciplines that I studied, practiced, learned, Zen was the essential one. It was not so much an influence on me, rather it created space. It allowed those things that were there to be there. It gave some form to my experience. And it built up in me the critical mass from which was kindled the experience that produced est."

It is ironic that Werner Erhard did not encounter the writings of the philosophers Wittgenstein, Heidegger and Husserl until after he had developed the est training and had already begun his own research into the methodology of phenomenology without having a name for it. Erhard's ideas are ontological in nature; he does not promote any kind of belief system incuding religious belief.

After more than 40 years many of Werner Erhard’s ideas, as well as the many people who have built something from Werner Erhard’s notion of transformation, have become a part of society’s thinking and culture across the globe.


What Other Philosophers Say

Hubert Dreyfus:

“In the course of the training it became progressively clear to me that the experience underlying the training and the conceptualization of this experience have deep affinities with the phenomena presented and analyzed in Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time.”

“…It is directly manifest in the training that est embodies a powerful and coherent truth which transforms the quality of the lives of those who experience it. Moreover, this truth contains radically new insights into the nature of human beings.” Assessment of the Philosophical Significance of The est Training

Bruce Hyde and Drew Kopp, authors of Speaking Being: Werner Erhard, Martin Heidegger, and a New Possibility of Being Human write, "The authors have engaged extensively, both as participants and as scholars, in numerous programs designed by Werner Erhard.  The senior author took the est Training for the first time in 1973, and we each have participated a number of times in The Forum, both during Erhard’s tenure in the organization and following his departure.  Our doctoral dissertations (University of Southern California, 1990; University of Arizona, 2008) consisted of rhetorical and philosophical analyses of The Forum.  Based upon this considerable study and experience, our assessment of Erhard’s work is unequivocal: we have found this work to be pedagogically effective and intellectually significant in all of its historical iterations.  Our intention in this book is to stimulate its serious consideration by the academic community, as well as by others in the culture at large."

Humberto R. Maturana: Report on the est Training

Michael Zimmerman: Est: A Philosophical Appraisal and on Werner Erhard and Martin Heidegger

Bruce Hyde and Drew Kopp: In their paper, "Connecting Philosophy and Communication; A Heideggerian Analysis of the Ontological Rhetoric of Werner Erhard," the authors state, "We are not suggesting here that Heidegger’s philosophical writings were the source of Erhard’s ideas. We see both men as being at work in the same field, sharing a view toward language and its relationship to Being."


"A Remarkable Day" by Steven Farber.

Thank You Werner

Werner Erhard at Self Growth.com

Quotes by Werner Erhard

Werner Erhard Archives

Werner Erhard's Work and Ideas

Werner Erhard Foundation

Werner Erhard in Financial Times

Werner Erhard Biography

Werner Erhard: Author of Being A Leader and The Effective Exercise of Leadership: An Ontological / Phenomenological Model



Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard
This documentary was created by the independent filmmaker and two-time Emmy Award Winning Producer for PBS, Robyn Symon.  It chronicles the history of Werner Erhard, his life, the world of the est Training and his work and ideas, all put into perspective through the dozens of stories told by numerous professional and academic experts.  Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard is available on DVD. 

Werner Erhard on the Internet

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Read Werner Erhard's Academic Papers


Werner Erhard is the 10th Top Author out of 202,966 based on total new downloads




Speaking Being: Werner Erhard, Martin Heidegger, and a New Possibility of Being Human, provides an unprecedented study of the ideas and methodology developed by Werner Erhard





werner erhard harvard university

Working Paper by Werner Erhard and Michael C Jensen



werner erhard NBER

Working Paper by Werner Erhard and Michael C Jensen




ecgi werner erhard

Working Paper by Werner Erhard and Michael C Jensen



Insigniam Quarterly

By Werner Erhard and Michael C. Jensen




Werner Erhard - Author of chapter

Werner Erhard is the author of the final chapter "Bill Bartley: Biographer Extraordinay" in the book Hayek: A Collaborative Biography edited by Dr. Robert Leeson, Visiting Professor of Economics at Stanford University.




Being a Leader and the effective exercise of leadership

Creating Leaders: A New Model - An event with Werner Erhard and Michael C.Jensen held November 5, 2013 at NYU, N.Y.




werner erhard dartmouth university lontological leadership course


Werner Erhard at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth






Werner Erhard speaks to Kennedy School students on his latest work: "Why We Do What We Do: A New Model Providing Actionable Access to the Source of Performance."



Werner Erhard and Peter Block working together on Peace and Reconciliation throughout the world.


"Being a Leader and The Effective Exercise of Leadership: An Ontological Model," led by Michael C. Jensen, Werner Erhard, Steve Zaffron and Kari Granger.


Werner Erhard, Michael Jensen, Steve Zafron, Kari Granger present the Leadership Course at Erasums Academie




Werner Erhard creates and shares new models and paradigms with great thinkers and universities around the world.


Werner Erhard at DePaul University Business Conference, pictured with Michael Jensen, Gonneke Spits


A Business Conference -

May 8, 2008 






The Life
and Legacy of Werner Erhard


Transformation: The Life and Legacy of WErner Erhard