Theory U: Leading From the Emerging Future - PDF

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.

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