Otto Scharmer describes Theory U as a blend of “systems thinking, innovation and leading change- from the viewpoint of an evolving human consciousness.”1
What is this human consciousness he speaks of? We begin with listening, by providing an open space for exchange, listening to our inner self and the whole group. We can then observe without judgement, we can open our hearts, our minds, our free will. He blends “sensing” and “presence” to create this new word “presence” to speak about our own future potential by connecting with our inner source of knowing. This is very profound, it is a good feeling when you can sit and feel that something is right, without ego, just a feeling, a comfort. This is what he calls invisible space, container building, but also includes “intention, attention and the subtle qualities of deep listening”2 which can be used to initiate change. Change is also related to the building of team or company relationships of “social fields”, this will provide for collective stewardship of change. Change needs the gluing of social connections, attention and care of the social field, a common purpose which will attract others.
With change we often look at the past, we look at what was done, what was the problem, really hoping to learn from those mistakes but also looking at what might be helpful. Scharmer reflects that “when I started to work on learning from the emerging future rather than from the past, only then did I start doing my best work”3. Letting go of the past, moving forward to merge into what is possible, not reacting to the problem but visioning the future, the potential found in the future is inspiring.
The idea of U comes in when thinking of prototyping, the left side is the resistance coming from the group. This is where connecting occurs and is nurtured by listening, being wide open. The curve is a place of inner reflection, feeling, silence, “allowing the inner knowing to emerg”.4 The right side represents the collaboration coming together with outcomes, prototypes and actions.
With climate change and the necessary behavoural changes which are necessary to save our planet, to become equitable, to find peace, and a deep connection with the earth, to move away from monetary thinking to planetary thinking we each must discover some higher significance to life, thinking of eachother. This I feel is all encompassing within the Theory U and is one way to stimulate and envision a future for planetary inhabitants.
1. C. Otto Scharmer, The Essentials of Theory U, Core Principles and applications, Preface.
2. Ibid, pg 13.