There are many design thinking models. Some of the things that are common in almost all of them are the following 2 principles:

  • User Centric &
  • Learning by doing

User Centric is great, but people have limited abilities do get out of their heads and actually see the world from others eyes. Also while user centric is very important, it is not the end of the world. There are many other stakeholders (visible and not easily visible) that one needs to include in the thinking process – since we are living in an interconnected system.

This is one of the areas Theory U by Dr. Otto Scharmer of M.I.T is contributing. Some of the key principles of Theory U include:

  • Systems thinking approach – Understanding the interconnect between the various stakeholders and the various factors at play in any system.
  • Shifting from ego thinking (thinking within a small boundary of me & mine) to eco thinking (inclusive)
  • Not looking only inside out but also looking outside in – seeing ourselves, our system, our organizations, process, results, impacts, behaviours from the eyes of other stakeholders.

How does one develop the ability to be user centric as well as eco-centric ? Dr. Otto points out that we need to develop 3 competencies :

  • Open Mind
  • Open Heart
  • Open Will

Open mind is being able to identify our opinions and judgments and being able to suspend them enough such that we can operate with genuine and deep curiosity and a commitment to discover new and contradictory data points and view points from our current understanding of things.

Open heart is our ability to empathize by getting out of our context, and seeing the situations from the eyes of other people and getting why they see the current situation, experience it and think differently. It requires us to to open our heart so much that we can deeply connect with others and are expand our world view to include more and more view points.

Open will is about going beyond the fear. The fear of trying out new pathways. Letting go of the old and fixed ways of seeing , doing and acting and be courageous enough to try out new dimensions.

With the competency of open mind, open heart and open will; and with an eco intention, one can be very effective in the design thinking process starting with ’empathize’ phase itself. The effective use of tools like empathy walks, dialogue interviews, stakeholder interviews, sensing journeys etc., helps one open new worlds of understanding of the customers and users as well as of the various stakeholder groups involved.

Let’s look at the 5 Phases of the U Phases

  • The co-imitation phase gets you to create a core team committed to address the issue at hand.
  • The co-sensing phase gets you in the learning mode, seeing the situation from the eyes of all stakeholders, collecting data points and perspectives.
  • Presencing is the special space where the team is connecting to the inner wisdom and tapping the intelligence of the heart and allowing some sparks of imagination and ideas to open up.
  • Co-creating is the space of rapid prototyping and learning by doing while continuing to be in the space of deep listening and learning from the universe.
  • Co-evolving is the space of scaling up and institutionalizing.

This is the access to deep listening, sensing and co-creating the future.

For more information on how you and your organizations can benefit applying Theory U and Design Thinking processes to business or societal challenges, feel free to connect with us. ; ;

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