Presencing – a way to connect the dots, going forward

“In the 21st century, organizations have to achieve peak performance by creating conditions that allow them to unleash the power of their people – not leading them, not managing them, but co-inspiring them. ” — Kevin Roberts, Saatchi and Saatchi

Theory-U and Prescencing

Otto Scharmer’s book, Theory U, outlines a perceptual model for boosting creativity in individuals and teams.  Graphically, the model is presented as a U-shape:

How does this work, in practice?

At the outset, we must suspend our assumptions (upper left-hand) part of the “U”. Even if we are entering a situation, where we have experience, we give ourselves permission to look at the scenario with totally fresh eyes.  By suspending our assumptions, we avoid projecting any personal bias on the situation.  This is opening the mind.

Next, we sense the reality as it is coming to us, unfiltered by past perceptions.  What is the context trying to tell us?  We open our hearts.

Third, we listen to what possible solutions are emerging from the interaction between our observations, interaction with others, and the context.  This is opening the will.

The final three stages are generative.  First, let fresh ideas and solutions emerge, meld, and coagulate around a common purpose. On the one hand, we let go of old ideas; on the other hand, we welcome emerging ideas. Steve Job called this “connecting the dots, going forward”.  Second, the group fashions a prototype, based on new ideas.  Finally, the prototype is tweaked, and perfected.  The final product is new, reflecting the synergy of the group.  It is a jack-in-the-box, springing forth from the creative juices of a collective effort.

Clearly, presencing is a creative process, focused on a future that wants to emerge (starting with suspending judgement, redirecting, letting go, letting come, enacting, and embodying). Mr. Scharmer’s theory moves from observation, through shared experience, and closes the loop with collective action.

From a pedagogical perspective, Kolb’s learning cycle included observation, reflection, planning and action. Peter Senge’s learning models included a double-loop, where people re-examine basic assumptions. Nevertheless, Mr. Scharmer goes even further. He taps into a future which is dying to emerge.

How do we use Theory-U in organizational practice?

Otto Scharmer has a series of tools, such as dialogue interview, prototyping, shadowing, and so forth.

The linchpin of U-Theory is the first step – suspending assumptions. That starts the creative process, leading to discovery of a better future.

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