What is your team and organization Culture? How do you alter the Culture?

Conversation creates the world we deal with in groups, organizations and society.

  1. Conversations happen in fields – i.e. conversations in groups tend to follow certain patterns, and those patterns rarely change.
  2. There is a limited set of conversational field patterns, meaning there is a limited set of qualities that a conversation can create in a social setting.
  3. The 4 different qualities of conversation are:
  • Field 1: Downloading
  • Field 2: Debate
  • Field 3: Dialogue
  • Field 4: Collective Creativity

The art of leadership is to facilitate shifts from one state of conversation to another, depending on what is needed in a specific context.

*** Enacting Conversations from Field 1: DOWNLOADING:

“How are you?” “I am fine”.

Many formal meetings in organizations are conducted using this kind of ritualistic language.

Operating effectively in such conversations requires that participants confirm to the dominant pattern of exchanging polite phrases rather than saying what is really on their minds.

In school, we learn to say what the teacher wants to hear. Later, we use the same skill to deal with bosses and get ahead in organizations.

What’s wrong with it?

From the organizational perspective, this is completely dysfunctional behaviour. It prevents teams from talking about what is really going on.

They talk about the real stuff somewhere else, like the parking lot or on their way home.

But in the workplace and in meetings, everyone’s times is wasted and they do nothing more than exchange polite comments.

This is the recipe of breakdowns and disasters waiting to happen and the organization tends to get caught in a disruption quite unaware.

***Enacting Conversations from Field 2: DEBATE:

The defining feature of a field 2 conversation is that participants speak their minds without being responsible for their communication and its impact on others. This kind of comments raise tensions. Everyone feels uncomfortable . This kind of conversation abandons YES Sir, language for a tougher type of conversation in which individuals dare to differ.

Field 1 is all about Confirming. You must confirm to other’s views (usually the boss’s views).

Field 2 is all about taking a different stance. You suggest a different point of view.

Field 2 conversations imply opening up to viewpoints that challenge the dominant views.

The structure that results from this kind of interactions is often a debate. The word ‘debate’ literally means ‘to fight or beat down’. People use their arguments to beat their opponents i.e. anyone with a different opinion.

Debate and the expression of differing views can be useful in organizations because they put all the opinions on the table.

But if an issue requires team members to reflect on and change their habits of thought and guiding assumptions, a different type of conversation than ‘debate’ is needed. One that allows participants to realize that “I am not my point of view.”

“I can suspend my own point of view and look at somebody else’s assumptions.” – Bill Isaacs – author of Dialogue: The art of Thinking Together. This requires one to move to the 3rd field of conversation.

*** Enacting Conversations from Field 3: DIALOGUE:

Dialogue comes from the Greek logos, ‘word’ or ‘meaning’ and dia, ‘through’ and can be literally translated as ‘meaning through’.

Moving from debate (field 2) to dailogue (field 3) involves a prfound shift in the collective field structure of attention through which a conversation operates.

Just as the move from seeing to sensing on the individual level involves a shift form facing the world as an exterior set of objects to experiencing the world from the field, the shift from debate to dialogue also involves a shift from trying to beat down the contrary view to inquiring into each other’s views, empathically listening from the other.

When this shift towards a dialogic field of conversation happens, your perspective widens to seeing the world and yourself from the whole.

*** Enacting Conversations from Field 4: Collective Presence and Creativity:

Level 4 conversations give birth to new ideas, imaginings, identities and inspired energy.

When the quality of the listening and conversation moves into a generative stage, there are distinct changes in people’s experience. The shift into this deeper field of collective presence often happens in a transitional moment of stillness. That is why groups that want to access this deepest level often use intentional stillness as a gateway.It is a space of “doing nothing” – of neither over-intervening nor disengaging.

When that deeper generative field is activated, we usually experience it as time slowing down, space opening, widening, the sense of self decentering, while the self-other boundary opens up to a collective presence form which the conversation seems to flow.

People no longer say,” This is my idea.” Instead the group engages in the art of thinking together where one idea builds on the other. The impact of this type of conversation can be profound, shaping or reshaping the course of one’s life.

How would it be if your team master operating at level 4 field of conversation?

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

Leadership Rule: ENERGY follows ATTENTION

The way I pay attention shapes how the social reality around me unfolds.

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

Energy follows attention.

Wherever you put your attention as a leader, as an innovator, as a change maker, or as a parent, that is where the energy of the system around you will go- including your own energy.

We need to cultivate and focus our attention.

We all live in a culture where technologies and multi tasking inhibit our capacity to sustain focused attention.

The biggest enemy of our capacity to sustain attention is of course our smartphones.

Energy follows attention means that the key to great leadership and breakthrough innovation lies in our capacity for sustained attention.

We have to focus on not only on the what- what we pay attention to, but even more son on the source: the place from which our attention originates.

There are 4 different types of listening, each of which operates from a different source.

  1. Habitual Listening: From my past experiences.
  2. Factual Listening: From my Open Mind
  3. Empathic Listening: From my Open Heart
  4. Generative Listening:From my Open Will

If the essence of leadership lies in our ability to shift the inner place from which we operate, then this means that we need to develop the collective capacity to operate from all four types of listening as required by the circumstances.

How do we develop this capacity to operate from all four types of listening?

Practicing every day.

  1. Downloading: Whenever you sit in a meeting in which everything that happens confirms what you expected, then you are downloading. Downloading is neither good or bad. It may be appropriate in one situation but not in another. It is just one type of listening. But if it is the only way you listen, then you are headed for trouble.
  2. Factual Listening: Moving from downloading to factual listening is quite doable: Just pay attention to what is most surprising, most unexpected, or most interesting. Cultivate your curiosity and pay attention to everything that deviates from your earlier expectations (i.e. to dis-confirming data). Capture these observations in a journal to ensure that you don’t lose them and the habit becomes stronger.
  3. Empathic Listening: Moving from factual to empathic listening requires you to step into the perspective of another person. Taking this step requires you to love the other person to activate the intelligence of the heart. Love begins by accepting people the way they are and the way they are not. You could also find things to appreciate about them. Get interested in them.
  4. Generative Listening: Moving from empathic to generative listening is the most challenging. It is something that you cannot force. You can create conditions for generative listening. The most important intervention at this level is : DO NOTHING. Do not intervene. Do not disengage. Just STAY WITH and hold the space for what wants to emerge.

Like a flame when applied to metal, nothing happens. But if you keep the flame ON for a while, the metal begins to change from solid to liquid. Similarly, as you continue to apply deep listening, over time the conversation will drop to a deeper level, to a different state. That is the leadership expected from all of us.

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

Leadership is the capacity to shift the inner place from which we operate.

How?

The first answer is that we start by learning to see the pattern language of social reality creation that we collectively enact. The U is more than just a process. It is a non-linear field theory that works as a matrix or a field.

Social fields describe the social system that we collectively enact – in teams, in groups, organizations and social system – from the perspective of source.

There are 4 archetypes or qualities of social fields that exist on all levles of sysems – from micro to mundo.

The Blind Spot: Uncovering the Grammar of the Social Field | HuffPost

The Horizontal Axis: System Levels:

The four columns of the matrix feature the actions of individuals, groups, organizations and system.

Social fields are enacted on all these levels through four primary forms of action:

  1. Attending (Micro)
  2. Conversing (Meso)
  3. Organizing ( Macro)
  4. Co-ordinating ( Mundo)

It is through these 4 activities that we as humans collectively create the reality we live in. As Joseph Beuys – late artist said – “These actions are how we create and live the global “Social Sculpture”.

The Vertical Axis: Levels of Consciousness

The vertical axis describes different states or qualities of our social reality. The vertical axis summarizes these qualities of listening by differentiating four field state of awareness:

  1. Habitual
  2. Ego-System
  3. Empathic
  4. Generative

Each state of awareness has certain characteristic patterns or fields.

  1. Field 1: HABITUAL: When individuals, groups or organizations operate with habitual field awareness, they interpret present situations based on their experiences and habits of the past. My action comes from inside my own boundaries(I-in-me). My reaction is triggered by external events and shaped by my habits of the past.
  2. Field 2: EGO – SYSTEM: When individuals or groups start to suspend past assumptions and seek to see things ‘as they are’, they enter a subject-object awareness in which they clearly differentiate between observer and observed. They begin to notice something new.
  3. Field 3: EMPATHIC – RELATION: When actors in a system redirect their attention from object to sources and engage in an empathic awareness, they sense reality from the view point of other stakeholders. They begin to see from a new perspective.
  4. Field 4: GENERATIVE – ECOSYSTEM : When actors let go of old identities, a new space of co-creative awareness opens up. Actions from such shared awareness have often been described as flow. They co-create from a future potential that wants to emerge.

4 Structures of Attention:

Field 1: HABITUAL: My action comes from inside my own boundaries(I-in-me). My reaction is triggered by external events and shaped by my habits of the past.

Field 2: EGO-SYSTEM: My action comes from the periphery of my system(I-in-it). It arises from a subject-object awareness that analyses and responds to exterior data.

Field 3: EMPATHIC-RELATIONAL: My action comes from beyond my boundaries ( I-in-you). It arises from the place that the other person, with whom I communicate, operates from.

Field 4: GENERATIVE ECOSYSTEM: My action comes from the sphere that surrounds my open boundaries(I-in-us/I-in-now). It arises form presencing a future potential.

Every social action emerges from one of these 4 sources or structures of attention: from inside, from the periphery, from outside, or from the surrounding sphere of a system.

When we look around us, most of the time we see that individuals, groups and organizations operate from the first two states i.e. Habitual or Ego-System. But great leaders, innovators and high performing teams tend to operate from the entire spectrum of social fields, moving across all four of them as needed by the situation they face.

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