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

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