In June I visited Berlin for one week immersion course into the change leadership process called Theory U, developed by Otto Scharmer of MIT and countless colleagues. I have been following Otto’s work ever since I left college many years ago as I explored the challenge of change in organisations during my time with McKinsey and in society during my PhD work on economic development.
One recurring theme in all my work is how stuck we can become in the past and present problems. I notice this in the intense descriptions from executives who describe to me why their boss, or colleague or the organization is broken and just won’t change. I experience it often in Turkey, my home country for whose people I so much wish to realise its full potential. Rather than talk about this potential and how to get there the talk quickly turns cynical on many reasons for why things won’t change are given (incl. many conspiracy theories, right or wrong, who knows).
The key challenge then is: How can we create the future if we are stuck (should I say pathologically in love…) with the past? The short answer so often given is that we need a visionary leader. I cannot find comfort in the idea to wait for another Atatürk (national or corporate) who enamours people and guides them to the promised land. In fact I strongly believe that any such hope in our hearts (however understandable) makes us susceptible to outsource responsibility for our own life to some other person or group. The people of many countries and corporations in the past and present have fallen into the hands of despots not because these individuals are so skilfully sinister but we were just looking for someone, anyone, who could do it for us.
Theory U invites us to take responsibility back, to approach our challenges collectively with curiosity, compassion and courageous rather than look for enemies and fight out of prejudice, anger and fear. The Theory U process provides a process structure for this challenging work to happen. Theory U works with the premise that while we focus on the past and present, there is already an emergent future available to us to access. Tapping it is often difficult because of our preoccupation with reacting and redesigning based on unquestioned assumptions. In the end what looks like change is more of the same old patterns.
The 5-step process allows us to go deeper by making the group aware of its own assumptions and beliefs, question them and thereby access deeper sources of inspiration and thereby have the group have the excitement and energy to prototype the future.
It has already been proven in public and private sectors, with people across the globe. If you want to learn the process you can participate in the free online learning community that Otto and his team have provided on the edX learning platform.
uLab 0x – Awareness-based Systems Change with uLab… Is a 90 min. intro course that provides a gateway into the Theory U process https://www.edx.org/course/awareness-based-systems-change-u-lab-how-mitx-15-671-0x
uLab 1x – Leading from the Emerging Future… Is the 7-week experiential online course (the 3rd run has started in Sept.2016 and you can still join) https://www.edx.org/course/u-lab-leading-emerging-future-mitx-15-671-1x
You can join by yourself, but even better if you want to do a real change project, do the course together with people from your organization or community of change. There are support hubs in many cities including Istanbul https://www.facebook.com/groups/552097118323506/?ref=bookmarks#
if you need more specific support, let’s talk.
Enjoy the journey of change and join the global community of change makers.