Theory U

- and the Iceberg Model

Posted by Mattias Axell on September 26, 2015

What have I Done Today?

  • Written tonnes of e-mails to send out.
In 2010, worldwide, more people killed themself in suicide than were being killed through war, murder, and natural disasters combined. - Otto E. Scharmer

What Tools have I Used?

  • Storytelling
And if we look back to the 20th century, here's how we have responded. In government, we create one or several ministry for each of these problem clusters. And international organizations, we create 1, or several, UN organizations for each of these clusters. In NGOs, we create special, single-focus NGOs on environmental issues, on social issues, and on cultural issues. And, of course, in academia, we have, for each of these issues, one or several departments. That's how we have been responding, basically, silo-type of approaches that address the problem at the symptom level, not at the root level, and that largely miss the interdependency across these problems. - Otto E. Scharmer

How do I Feel about the Project Today?

  • I feel alright, I want to get more digital and visual with the planning of it.

What Surprised Me?

  • How long time it takes to write long e-mails.

What has Changed?

  • My view on the time I spend on e-mails. I want to write shorter and faster, spend less time on that.

What are the Next Action Steps?

  • Getting done with 1st week of Theory U!
How does it really work that some profound new innovation is really coming into the world? How does the new come into the world? And what we realized is that the accounts that we heard, the first person stories from the innovators, were somehow quite different to the story that you learn in school; the normal organizational learning story. And one of them- Brian Arthur, formerly Stanford University and now Santa Fe institute- he put a particular simple and accessible language around this other process. And when we asked him how it works he said, first off, you need to realize that there are two different sources of cognition. One is what he called downloading. And downloading is basically using existing frameworks and lowering them to a situation. And the other one is what he referred to as knowing, a deeper learning cycle that according to Brian Arthur is at the core of each profound innovation in science, business, and in society. So we asked him, what really does it take to move beyond the downloading and activate this other deeper process of knowing? And he basically laid out a core process of three main activities, which are observe, observe, observe. So what does it mean: Observe, observe, observe? It means stop downloading. Discontinue the old habitual ways of operating, the old habits of judgment, and totally immerse yourself into the reality you're dealing with. Totally immerse yourself into the places of most potential, the context that can teach you most about how to deal and respond to the situation and the challenge that you're dealing with. Number two, retreat and reflect, allow the inner knowing to emerge. So observe, observe is you go out into the world. You talk to the operators, you're out there on the streets. This one is something different. This is everyone comes back together and is sharing what they learned, sharing the golden keys of insight that they gathered across places. And then, as everyone is listening to what has been learned, you do it with a mindset that's not only asking what is it that's really wanting to emerge in the world there, but also what is the story of the future that I want to be part of, that we want to be part of? So retreat and reflect, allow the inner knowing to emerge, is really about accessing our deeper sources of knowing, our deeper sources of intuition. He also said, go to the place of stillness where knowing comes to surface. So this is about connecting to our deeper sources of intuition. And then, when maybe kind of a spark or two, an idea of a possible future shows up from that, number three, explore them by doing. Act in an instant means you explore these ideas through rapid cycle prototyping to do something very local, very quick, in a way that generates feedback from others, that helps you to iterate, refine, and evolve your idea. So that's really the first insight that I had. - Otto E. Scharmer

Photographs by The Commons.