Presencing Vs Absencing : Creation Vs Destruction

There is fair amount of PRESENCING in the world; the sensing and actualizing of our highest future potential. But there is much more ABSENCING also happening on the planet right now.

In the world of Absencing the three enemies of Voice of Judgement, Voice of Cynicism and Voice of Fear show up as:

IGNORANCE

HATE

FEAR

IGNORANCE: The closing of the mind. (Stuck in One Truth).

HATE: The closing of the heart (Stuck in One Us Vs. Them)

FEAR: The closing of the will ( Stuck in One Will)

What happens to a social system that operates on these principles?

It creates an architecture of separation by building walls. It facilitates a disconnect (denying, de-sensing) form the world around us, from the world that is emerging (absencing), which results in blaming others (an inability to reflect) and destruction ( of trust, relationships, nature and self).

This cycle of absencing is depicted in the upper half of the picture above.

The cycle of Presencing shown in the lower half is based on:

CURIOSITY : The opening of the mind.

COMPASSION: The opening of the heart

CURIOSITY: The opening of the will.

Social systems that operate on these principles enact architectures of connection that tear down the walls of separation.

SOCIAL FIELDS:

The cycle of absencing and the cycle of presencing denote different social fields. The cycle of absencing represents a field of destruction and social coldness. The cycle of presencing represents a field of co-creation and social warmth.

Each field tends to be self -reinforcing. E.g.: Once you are inside a cycle of absencing, inside a social dynamic of destruction, it is very hard to escape it.

The job of the leadership team is to keep moving the system from the default pull of absencing to the world of presencing.

The future of the organization and the world depends on it.

This writeup is based on Theory U by MIT Prof. Dr. Otto Scharmer.

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3 Enemies of Leadership Transformation

Why is the deeper territory of deep listening, the road less traveled. Because it required some intentional inner work to illuminate the blind spot, our interior condition.

Connecting to our source of creativity at the bottom of the U required crossing the 3 gates, or thresholds.

The 3 enemies the 3 inner voices of resistance are :

  1. Voice of Judgment
  2. Voice of Cynicism
  3. Voice of Fear

Voice of Judgment blocks the gate to the Open Mind. Every creativity technique starts with this instruction: Suspend your voice of judgment. It is the critical starting point because without it we shut down the creative power of the open mind.

Voice of Cynicism blocks the gate to the Open Heart. This is the source of all our emotional acts of distancing. What is at stake when we begin to access the open heart? We must be willing to put ourselves in a position of true openness and vulnerability towards another, which is the opposite of distancing.

Voice of Fear blocks the gate to the Open Will. It seeks to prevent us from letting to of what we have and who we are. It can show up as a fear of losing things. Or a fear of being ostracized. Or a fear of death. And yet dealing with that voice of fear is at the heart of leadership today: to hold the space for letting go of the old and for letting come, or welcoming the new.

The root of the word ‘leadership’ means ‘to die’.

Sometimes when you need to let go,it feels exactly like that: dying.

A subtle inner threshold must be crossed before something new can show up, before the ‘field of the future’ can begin to manifest.

The above write up is based on Theory U by MIT Prof. Dr. Otto Scharmer

Inner Knowing & Leadership

The 3 instruments of inner knowing are:

  1. Open Mind
  2. Open Heart
  3. Open Will

An open mind is the capacity to suspend old habits of judgment – to see with fresh eyes.

An open heart is the capacity to empathize and to look at a situations through the eyes of somebody else.

An open will is the capacity to ‘let go’ of the old and ‘let come’ the new.

LISTENING:

Listening is probably the most underrated Leadershp Skill.

At the heart of most leadership failures, leaders are often unable to connect with and make sense of the ‘VUCA’ world around them ; i.e. a world defined by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

Listening is not only important for leadership. If you are not a good listener, there is no way you can develop real mastery in any discipline.

Shifting your mode of listening is life-changing. Shifting how you listen, the way you pay attention, sounds like a really small change. But here is the thing: Changing how you listen mean that you change you experience relationships and the World. And if you change that, you change, well EVERYTHING.

To become a better listener, you first need to understand the four types of listening.

The four types of listening reflect the underlying principles of the opening of the mind, heart and will.

DOWNLOADING:

At this level, listening is limited to reconfirming what we already know. Nothing new penetrates our bubble.

FACTUAL LISTENING:

We let the data talk to us and notice dis-confirming information. Doing this requires opening the mind – i.e. the capacity to suspend our habits of judgement.

EMPATHIC LISTENING:

We see the situation through the eyes of another. Doing this requires opening the heart; using our feelings and our heart as an organ of tuning in to another person’s view.

GENERATIVE LISTENING:

We listen for the highest future possibility to show up while holding a space for something new to be born.

When you listen on level 1, ‘downloading’, your attention is not focused on what the other person says but on your own inner commentary. e.g. You may be planning what you will say next.

As you cross the threshold from downloading to factual listening (from level 1 to level 2), your attention moves from listening to your inner voice to actually listening to the person in front of you. You open up to what is being said.

When you start to cross the threshold from factual to empathic listening (from level 2 to level 3), your place of listening shifts from you to the other person -i.e. your place of listening shifts from you to the other person -i.e. from your small vehicle(the intelligence of your heart). You step into the other person’s perspective. E.g.: You may think: ” oh, I may not agree, but I can see how she sees this situation.”

Finally, when you cross the threshold from empathic to generative listening (level 3 to level 4), your listening becomes a holding space for bringing something new into reality that wants to be born. You listen with openness to what is unknown and emerging.

The success of leadership and change management depends on the ability of the leader to observe his or her quality of listening and to adjust the quality of listening to what is needed in each situation.

This write up is based on Theory U by MIT Prof. Dr. Otto Scharmer.

Attending to and Co-Shaping the future that wants to emerge

The U Process:

DOWNLOADING:

At the beginning there is a spark of becoming aware that moves us beyond downloading -m beyond extending the patterns of the past. As long as we operate form downloading, the world is frozen by our old mental habits and past experiences;nothing new enters our minds. Same Old,Same Old.

SEEING:

The moment we suspend our habitual judgement we wake up with fresh eyes. We notice what is new and see the world as a set of objects that are exterior to us, the observers.

SENSING:

The moment we redirect our attention from objects to source, our perception widens and deepens. This shift bends the beam of observation back into the observer. The boundary between the observer and observed opens up.

PRESENCING:

Entering a moment of stillness, we let go of the old and connect to the surrounding sphere of future potential. The boundary between observer and observed collapses into a space for the future to emerge.

CRYSTALLIZING:

As we let come and crystallize vision and intention, the relationship between observer and observed starts to invert. Envisioning happens from the field of the future (rather than our ego).

PROTOTYPING:

As we enact prototypes we explore the future by doing. The relationship between observer and observed continues its inversion. Enacting happens from ‘being in dialogue with universe’ (rather than from our ego).

PERFORMING:

As we embody the new by evolving our practices and infrastructures, the relationship between observer and observed completes its inversion. The embodying happens from the context of the larger eco-system (rather than from the small ‘s’ institutional self).

In summary, the first key ideas of Theory U include the 3 movements i.e. observe, retreat, act and the more granular 7 processes of attending to and co-shaping the future that wants to emerge.

This write up is based on Theory U by MIT Prof. Dr. Otto Scharmer

Theory U – Form follows Consciousness

Theory U focuses on how individuals, groups and organizations can sense and actualize their highest future potential.

I attend (this way), therefore it emerges(that way).

The quality of my listening co-shapes how the conversation unfolds. The quality of results in any social system is a function of the consciousness from which the people in that system operate. The idea can be expressed as form follows Consciousness.

The above 2 pictures depict the mindset shift at issue here: switching from seeing the system as something ‘out there’ to seeing the system from a perspective that includes one’s own self .

When that shift happens on an individual level, we call it mindfulness.

When the same shift happens in a group, we call is dialogue.

Dialogue is not people talking to each other. Dialogue is the capacity of the system to see itself. To see its own patterns. To see its own assumptions.

That capacity is, of course, also the essence of systems thinking: making the system see itself. Saying from the context of Theory U: Making a system sense and see itself.

When you deal with change management,then you know that the bulk of the job is moving people from a ‘silo view’ to a ‘systems view’; from ego-system awareness to an eco-system awareness.

We can reliably create the conditions that allow for that kind of shift in awareness to happen. You can’t manufacture it. You can’t mold it like a piece of metal by hammering on it from the outside. But you can create a set of inner and outer conditions that allows a group, an organization, or a system to make that move, to sense and see themselves form the emerging whole.

W. Brian Arthur of Sante Fe Institute said: The real power comes from recognizing patterns that are forming and fitting with them.

There are 2 levels of cogniton.

Most tend to be the standard cognitive kind that you can work with in your conscious mind.

But there is a deeper level – a ‘knowing’.

When one is put in a completely new situation and there is no problem to fix, then one would just wait and wait and let one’s experience build upto into something appropriate. In a sense, there is no decision making. What to do becomes obvious. You can’t rush it. Much of it depends on where you’re coming from and who you are as a person. This has lot of implications for management. What counts is where you’re coming from inside yourself.

Leaders need to deal with their blind spot and shift their attention to the inner place from which they operate.

2 Insights:

  1. There is a distinction between two types of cognition: normal (downloading of mental frames) Vs. a deep level of knowing.
  2. To activate the deeper level of knowing, one has to go through a 3 step process:
  • Observe, Observe, Observe: Connect to the places of most potential
  • Retreat and reflect: allow the inner knowing to emerge
  • Prototype: Act from what emerges in the NOW.

This write up is based on Theory U by MIT Prof. Dr. Otto Scharmer

Real role of Leadership: Building the Container – Holding the space for the future to emerge.

As Edgar Schein mentioned that there are really two types of people: those who understand process and those who don’t.

Understanding process means to understand the making of our social relationships.

If you want to change a stakeholder relationship from, say, dysfunctional to helpful, you cannot just order people to do it. You have to intervene further upstream in the process of social reality creation. You have to change the making of that relationship from one mode to another – for example, from reactive to co-creative.

Similarly, with respect to the the ‘source’ level of creativity. We can say that there are two types of people those who understand containers and those who don’t. Container means holding space for the learning, creativity, innovation and leadership to emerge.

Often CEO and leaders in various organizations fail to get that. They think they can create behavioural change just by making speeches and pushing some tools onto the organization. Tools are important,but they are also overrated because they are so visible. But what is usually underrated is all the stuff that is invisible to the eye-e.g.: the less visible elements of a good holding space: Intention, Attention and Subtle qualities of deep listening.

CHANGE MANAGEMENT TOOLS:

Much of the conventional language and toolkits around managing change turn out to be partially useful at best.

DRIVING CHANGE is a misnomer.

Just as a farmer cannot ‘drive’ a plant to grow faster, a leader or change maker in an organization or a community cannot force practical results. Instead attention must be focused on improving the quality of the soil.

What is the quality of the social soil?

It is the quality of relationships among the individuals, teams and institutions that give rise to collective behaviour and practical results.

The above write up is based on Theory U by MIT Prof. Dr. Otto Scharmer

New Paradigm of Learning: Learning from the Future as It Emerges

There are 2 different sources of learning.

  1. Learning by reflection on the past and
  2. Learning by Sensing and actualizing emerging future possibilities.

All traditional organizational learning methods operate with the same learning model: learning by reflecting on past experiences.

But we see that in real organizations, most leaders face challenges that cannot be responded to just by reflecting on the past. Sometimes past experiences are not particularly helpful. Sometimes they are the very obstacles that keep a team from looking at a situation with fresh eyes.

Learning from the past is necessary but not sufficient.

All disruptive challenges require us to go further. They require us to slow down, stop, sense the bigger driving forces of change, let go of the past and let come the future that wants to emerge.

What does it take to learn from the Emerging Future?

As human beings, we can connect to the emerging future. We can break the patterns of the past and create new patterns at scale.

We have the gift to engage with two very different qualities and streams of time.

One of them is the quality of the present moment that is basically an extension of the past. The present moment is shaped by what has been.

The second is a quality of the present moment that functions as a gateway to a field of future possibilities. The present moment is shaped by what is wanting to emerge. That quality of time, if connected to, operates from the highest future potential.

The word ‘presencing’ blends ‘sensing’ with ‘presence’. It means to sense and actualize one’s highest future potential.

Whenever we deal with disruption, it is this second stream of time that matters most. Because without that connection we tend to end up as victims rather than as co-shapers of disruption.

Theory U is an answer to the question: How can we connect to this second stream of time as individuals, organizations and as eco-systems?

This writeup is based on Theory U by MIT Prof. Dr. Otto Scharmer.

The Blind Spot of Leadership, Management and Social Change

The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener” – Bill O’Brien – CEO of Hanover Insurance.

What counts is not only what leaders to and how they do it but also their ‘interior condition’ – that is their inner source. Bill was pointing at a deeper dimensions (the source) from which our actions, communication and perceptions arise, and which allows us to sense and connect with a whole new set of future possibilities.

The quality of how we pay attention is a largely hidden dimension of our everyday social experience – whether it is in organizations, institutions or even our personal lives. As we conduct our daily business, we usually are well aware of what we do and how we do it- that is the process we use. But if we were asked where our actions cam from, most of us would be unable to provide a clear response.

Infront of the Blank Canvas

To understand this point better, consider the work of an artist. We can look at art from atleast 3 perspectives:

  1. We can focus on the thing that results from the creative process – say, a painting.
  2. We can focus on the artist’s process in creating the painting OR
  3. We can observe the artist at the moment when she is standing in front of a blank canvas.

In other words, we can look at the work of art after it has been created, during its creation, or before creation begins.

If we apply this analogy to leading change, we can look at the change maker’s work from 3 similar angles.

  • First, we can look at what leaders and change makers to.
  • Second, we can look at the how, the processes leaders use.

We have many books on the first aspect in many books and we have lot of management and leadership research on the second aspect too.

Yet, we have never systematically looked at the leader’s work from the blank canvas perspective.

The question that we have left unasked is: What sources are leaders and change makers actually operating from?

e.g.: What quality of listening, what quality of attention, do I bring to a situation – and how does that quality change the course of action, moment to moment?

Above writeup is based on Theory U by MIT Prof. Dr. Otto Scharmer

3 Divides : One needs to wake up to

  1. The Ecologoical Divide
  2. The Social Divide
  3. The Spiritual Divide

The Ecological Divide: Unprecedented environmental destruction – resulting in the loss of nature.

The Ecological divide can be summed up by a single number: 1.5. Currently our economy consumes the resources of 1.5 planets. We use 1.5 times the regeneration capacity of planet earth. And that is the global average. USA is consuming 5 planets

The Social Divide: Obscene levels of inequity and fragmentation-resulting in the loss of society-the social whole.

The social divide can be summed up by another number: 8. 8 billionaires own as much as half of mankind combined i.e. 3.8 billion people.

The Spiritual divide: Increasing levels of burnout and depression – resulting in the loss of meaning and the loss of Self.(Self = highest future potential).

The spiritual divide can be summed up by a number: 800K. More than 800K people commit suicide per year. That is more than the sum of people who are killed by war, murder and natural disasters combined. Every 40 seconds there is 1 suicide.

In essence, we are collectively creating results that (almost) no body wants. These results include the loss of nature, the loss of society, and the loss of SELF.

In the 19th Century, many countries saw the rise of the social divide and people have come aware of it. In the 20th Century, we see the rise of the ecological divide, specially in the last 30 years. In the 21st century, we are seeing the rise of the spiritual divide.

In other words, we live in a time when our planet, our societal whole, and the essence of our humanity are under attack.

So, where is the hope?

The biggest source of hope in our time is that more and more people, particularly the younger population, realize that the three divides are not three separate problems. They are essentially three different faces of one and the same root issue. What issue is that? The blind spot. The blind spot of leadership, management and social change.

The blind spot will be addressed in a separate article. Please check out…

Based on the Theory U by MIT Prof. Dr. Otto Scharmer

Theory U Leadership: Cultivate the Social Field of the Organization or Society that you want to transform

Adapted from the book ‘The Essentials of Theory U’ by MIT Prof. Dr. Otto Scharmer.

Theory U makes a distinction between the different ways that action and attention come into the world. I pay attention this way, therefore it emerges that way. Or as the late CEO of Hanover Insurance, Bill O’Brien puts it: The Success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener.

In case of a farm, the field has two dimensions; one that is visible, what’s growing above the surface; and one that is invisible, what’s beneath the surface – that is, the quality of soil.

The same distinction applies to social fields. We can see what people do, the practical outcomes that they accomplish in the visible realm. But we rarely pay attention to the deeper root condition: the source and interior condition from which we operate.

Theory U draws our attention to that blind spot – to the invisible source dimension of the social field, to the quality of relationships that we have to each other, to the system, and to ourselves.

There are 4 different ways(or sources from) that action and attention come into the world. They arise from a quality of awareness that is

  1. Habitual
  2. Ego-Systemic
  3. Empathic-relational
  4. Generative Eco-Systemic

The essence of leadership is to become aware of our blind spots (these interior conditions or sources) and then to shift the inner place from which we operate as required by the situations we face.

That means that our job as leaders and change makers is to Cultivate the Soil of the Social Field. The social field consists of the relationships among individuals,groups and systems that give rise to patterns of thinking, conversing, and organizing, which in turn produce practice results.

Social fields are like social systems-but they are seen from within, form their interior condition.

To shift form a social system perspective to a social field perspective, we have to become aware of our blind spot, the source level from which our attention and our actions originate. That source level fundamentally affects the quality of leading, learning and listening.

The problem with leadership today is that most people think of it as being made up of individuals, with one person at the top. But if we see leadership as the capacity of a system to co-sense and co-shape the future, then we realize that all leadership is distributed – it needs to include everyone.

To develop collective capacity, everyone must act as a steward for the larger eco-system.

To do that in a more reliable, distributed, and intentional way, we need:

  1. A social grammar: a language
  2. A social technology: methods and tools
  3. And a new narrative of social change

Theory U resolves around a core process of co-sensing and co-shaping emerging future possibilities. But is much more than that.

Some of the leadership capacities that are at the hear of the U method include:

  • Suspension and Wonder: Only in the suspension of judgment we can open ourselves up to wonder. Wonder is about noticing that there is a world beyond our patterns of downloading.
  • Co-Sensing: You must go to places of most potential yourself because it is in these connections that the seeds of the future come into the world. Connect with these places with your mind and heart wide open.
  • The Power of Intention: The power of ‘intention’ is key. In all presencing work, the deeper intention is the opposite of corporate indoctrination. It is about increasing, not decreasing, your range of possibilities. It is about strengthening your sources of self in a world that otherwise tends to tear us apart. It is about making you aware of your own sources of curiosity, compassion and courage.
  • Co-creating: Explore the future by doing, by building small landing strips for the future that wants to emerge.
  • Container building: Creating new holding spaces that activate the generative social field.

The problem with our current societal eco-systems is the broken feedback loop between the parts and the whole.

Theory U offers a method for relinking the parts and the whole by making it possible for the system to sense and see itself. When that happens, the collective consciousness begins to shift from ego-system awareness to eco-system awareness – from a silo view to a systems view.

ENERGY follows ATTENTION

Wherever we put our attention as leader, educator, parent etc., that is where the energy of the team will go. The moment we see the quality of attention shifting from ego to eco, from me to we, that is when the deeper conditions of the field open up, when the generative social field is being activated.