theory U

Maitreya Buddha In-Action

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012 | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I spent last week in Zhejiang, China, where I enjoyed reconnecting with a group of senior government officials, academicians, and business executives. When I met them for the first module in Boston in June my MIT colleague John Sterman ran a climate-change-simulation game with them that put the participants in the shoes of all of the countries negotiating with each other on limiting greenhouse gas emissions. After each round, the results of their negotiations were input into a science-based simulation model that calculated the outcomes of their decisions for the climate. The result of this multi-round simulation was catastrophic: the combination of sea-level increase and a typhoon would have caused key areas of their province in China to be submerged.

Four weeks ago when I led the next module with the group in China, midway through we lost all ten of the mayors in the group (it includes about ten mayors of cities and communities with populations of 500,000 to 5 million) when they were ordered home to lead disaster preparations in advance of two typhoons headed for their region. Working day and night for three days, they helped to coordinate the evacuation of 3 million people from their homes. The typhoons and the ensuing flooding were the worst in the past 60 years. But due to the superb disaster preparedness not a single person was killed.

During this week we met in Hangzhou Lin’an, from where we took a side trip to visit some thousands of year-old Gingkoe trees. Several of them had grown and then “given birth to” (a holding space) for the next generation. The picture below shows a tree that is part of a five generation tree of trees, each generation growing on top of another (the oldest one apparently 12,000 years old). Five generations of trees in one big tree eco-system. What a beautiful picture of evolution that we are part of on planet earth!

Another side trip at the edges of our workshop led us to the construction site of a Silicon Valley–style innovation eco-system (the fifth of its kind in China). When I drive around in the United States I am sometimes shocked to see the erosion of bridges, streets, schools, and other public infrastructure; when I return to my home town in Germany I find people still discussing the pros and cons of the same Autobahn extension that they were already talking about 30 years ago. But in China they envisioned, planned, and and are building an entire high-tech innovation eco-system in a mere 12 or so years. Simply breathtaking to see and feel that dynamism!

On the last day, after the completion of the workshop, some of the participants arranged for me to visit with the head monk of a nearby Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou (picture), one of the major Buddhist temples in China. He told me that he was increasingly invited to teach the essentials of Buddhism to corporate leaders in China. I asked whether he also teaches them in the temple and monastery. Yes, he responded, he runs three-day workshops in which the CEOs live and work with the monks at the monastery; and for three hours per day, he teaches them.

During the meeting I received a small statue of the Maitreya Buddha as a gift from the head monk and the two senior officials of the provincial government who also attended the meeting. The Maitreya Bodhisattva is the Buddha of the future, who is expected to follow the reign of the historic Shakjamuni (Gautama) in the future. The Maitreya Buddha is also the Buddha of Compassion. One of the government officials explained to me that since the U process is about letting go of the past and letting come the emerging future, the Maitreya Buddha would be particularly connected to it. The Maitreya Buddha is usually depicted with a very big belly and is very relaxed, smiling, and compassionate, allowing him to harmonize seeming contradictions. I thought to myself that that’s what I experienced on the day of my visit: head monks teaching business CEOs, Party and government officials telling me about the Maitreya Buddha, compassion and the U, and all of us together in a generative conversation that planted important seeds for future work…

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Indonesian Inspirations: The Asian Essence of the U

Thursday, July 12th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

I am writing this on my return flight from an amazing week in Indonesia. First we celebrated the graduation of the 2012 class from the MIT IDEAS Indonesia program, a nine-month journey for high-potential leaders from business, government, and civil society that took them to the edges of society, systems, and their own selves (picture).

Hosted by the Minister of Trade in Jakarta, the IDEAS group presented their five action learning prototypes to the public:

1. Defense through Prosperity: Shifting the security frame from hard to soft power
2. Vulnerable Children: Using media to empower the most marginalized children in Papua
3. Ecosystem Protection: Rebuilding the well-being of ecosystems through economic inclusion (rather than by working against the marginalized)
4. Water: Cleaning up a river in Jakarta by engaging stakeholders across all three sectors
5. Microfinance—Financing an economic shift that transforms fisher’s core business from catching fish to watching and safeguarding fish

What I love about these prototypes is that they became much more than just a practice field for cross-sector engagement. Almost all of the IDEAS teams are now engaged in significant ongoing change activities that have emerged from their prototypes, although the IDEAS program officially ended last week. Several of the teams have co-founded new organizations that will support their ongoing activities. Others have formed cross-organizational alliances between existing institutions. Their work has produced what seems like a really rich field planted with promising seeds for the future…

Meeting the Minister of Trade reminded me how successful Indonesia has been in reducing its debt-to-GDP ratio from 83% in 2001 to as little as 24% today. It’s an amazing accomplishment in only about one decad! Contrast that with the progress on that issue in Washington and Europe…

With my colleagues Frans (Jakarta) and Dr. Ben (Singapore), I then ran several workshops for BNI, the second largest government-owned bank in Indonesia, as part of their institutional transformation journey. Here are a few insights from these sessions:

–The opening of the financial markets in Indonesia for foreign banks has been a mixed blessing. Today, of the 40 largest banks in Indonesia, only 13 are not foreign owned. The benefit that the international competitors brought was somewhat limited, as all of them concentrate on the top market of the affluent and rich, creating very few services and benefits for the underserved customers in the country. That market, the underserved regions and segments of society, is largely left to domestic (government-owned) players like BNI. So why do Indonesians need the international banks when all they do is skim the cream from the over-served market, with no or little contribution (or rechanneling) to the underserved markets?

–When you take a group of 60 or 100 people through a one- or two-day U process journey, you know by the elevated energy at the end that some sort of transformation has happened. But when exactly is the moment when the collective field starts to shift? It happens when, having faced and absorbed the current reality from all the relevant angles (observe, observe, observe), people begin to BEND, TURN, and REDIRECT the beam of attention from the “problems out there” (in the it-world) to themselves (the I-you world), that is, to their own actions that continue to reproduce the current unacceptable reality.

This moment is different from abstract reflection. In abstract reflection we miss the first step: the collective grounding of the whole group by getting them to absorb and internalize all the relevant perspectives and views. (This involves systems mapping and role playing in order to enact the dynamics of the system in real time.) Next you allow yourself a moment of stillness, you let everything sink in, and then you ask yourself: Why are we doing this to ourselves? THAT is the moment when the field starts to shift. It’s the moment when the individual and collective beams of attention start to bend, bend more, turn, and get redirected back to their SOURCE: why are WE doing this to OURSELVES?

This sounds easy and obvious, but in most real cases this shifting of the field does not happen because of one of the two following failures. (1) Either you are simply stuck in current reality — that is, the whole analysis is done on a simple systems (technical) level, missing the self-reflective turn (it-world fallacy, it’s all about stuff). Or, if you do bring in the self-reflective dimension (let’s say by coaching the key players), it’s done with partial and incomplete data and doesn’t close the feedback loop between self and other in a system (I-world fallacy, it’s all about me). The point of the U is to avoid both fallacies and steer the ship between these extremes, first by building a solid foundation of seeing a SHARED current reality, and then by turning our attention from the it-world to the source. When that happens, things get quiet, time slows down, space gets broader and deeper. In that moment you know that you are on the right track. You have no idea what is going to emerge from the next phase. But you do know that you are entering a deeper level of the social field…

–The essence of all leadership is something very simple: connecting to reality. Reality 1 is current reality, and reality 2 is the emerging future reality that needs us in order to come into being. In other words, leadership is about getting out of our personal bubble. New consciousness comes into being when and to the degree that we pierce and emerge from the bubble of our formal systems, in order to meet and encounter the real reality outside.

–That reality has many faces. One way of thinking about it uses a set of three numbers that reflect the ecological, socio-economic, and spiritual divides that afflict our world: 1.5, 2.0, 3.0. The number 1.5 refers to the fact that we are currently using the resources of 1.5 planets every year. The number 2.5 refers to the 2.5 billion people who live in poverty. And 3.0 refers to the one million people who commit suicide every year, three times the number who die from violent conflict or war.

I have come to see my work more and more in terms of the work of a farmer. What does a good farmer do? Enhance the quality of the topsoil. What does a good farmer of the social field do (that is, a facilitator, coach, or leader)? The same thing. We all try to increase the quality of the topsoil of the social field. This very thin sphere connects what is underneath (earth, lithosphere) with what is above (sky, atmosphere). And through this connection, the soil becomes fertile. In management and leadership, in all sorts of social processes, we do the same thing. We are grounded in two worlds: a complete collective seeing of the “it” world, and then, when we redirect the beam of attention back toward its source, the distributed “I” world.

That is the essence of the U process. Working with groups in Asia has also taught me to better articulate the simple essence of the U: breathing in, breathing out. Breathing in: going down the left-hand side of the U; breathing out: going up the right-hand side of the U. Who is breathing here? It’s the collective breathing of a distributed social field, an emerging field of inspired connections among us…

Thoughts? Thanks for sharing them!

BTW, here are the youtube clips of an interview that Desi Anwar did with me for her “Face2Face” show that aired on Indonesian TV last weekend. I haven’t watched it yet but my Indonesian friends said that Desi once more created a great piece:

Part 1/5
Part 2/5
Part 3/5
Part 4/5
Part 5/5

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U of Democracy: Direct, Dialogic, Distributed…

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

I’m flying home from my fall road trip to some very inspiring parts of the world. Here are a few observations and experiences from the past few weeks:

MIT, Cambridge, Mass.: Starting at home, the Fall U-Lab class was great. Half of the 85 students were mid-career executives studying at MIT and Harvard on leave from companies around the world. What I found interesting is that many of them reported the same experiences in their home organizations (that I am also hearing in other places): “The faster I climb up the ladder of corporate success, the less inspired I get by my work…”

Presencing Global Forum, Cambridge, Mass.: The Global Forum was a huge experience (see my previous blog entry). It felt like stepping into a field of heightened collective possibility—something we have been working toward for many years. The question now is how to take the next steps. The next Forum will be in Berlin, June 18-19, 2012. Then the 2013 Forum will probably be in Bali (late June 2013). The Masterclass meeting (with a group of 72 advanced practitioners) that we held right after the Forum in Cape Cod also created the same feeling of deepened connection and heightened future possibility…

Health Innovation Lab, Amsterdam. I reconnected with a group of Dutch health practitioners working to radically renew their existing health system. We used social presencing theater (including many elements of constellation work) to map the current system and how it could be transformed into a health system of the future. We conducted the same process in two parallel groups and then compared notes. These are the three main elements common to both sets of ideas for transformation: 1. The new does not start inside the system, but from the periphery, from the edges of the system. 2. It starts with citizens (payers), patients, and alternative health providers—but when physicians join the new constellation the axis of the system shifts and the bigger players (insurance companies, hospitals) also need to change. 3. It is essential to include the patients and citizens (the people who pay).

Forum for Global Development, Berlin: On the occasion of its 50th anniversary, the German Ministry of Development Cooperation invited me to a two-day Global Development Forum that convened 60 decision makers and change makers from all cultures, regions, and sectors, including the head of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, and the head of the UN Environment Program, Achim Steiner. The event was designed around Theory U and co-facilitated by two of my colleagues from the Presencing Institute. Unfortunately, I could only attend the first day. On that day we started with some learning journeys. The journey I picked led me, among other places, to the now closed Tempelhof Airport in the center of Berlin. Have you ever been in an airport that’s completely silent? It’s almost surreal. The only time I had experienced an airport wrapped in stillness was right after 9/11 when Katrin and I tried to catch a flight from S.F. to Boston to get back to our children. Everything was closed down, as you may remember. Here is a picture of the Tempelhof Airport:

A few months ago this huge green strip in the heart of Berlin was opened to the public. What’s the result? People LOVE this green field in the heart of the city. They use it for running, skating, kiting, flying toy airplanes, enjoying the OPEN SPACE… Here is a look at that open space:

When you grow up in Germany (as I did) you find several reasons not to feel so great about your country, to put it mildly (nazi past, etc.). That said, I was really pleased to see how the city of Berlin included all its citizens in a process of participatory planning regarding the future of Tempelhof, openly and reflectively dealing with the history of this airport (which includes some Nazi elements, among others). Many other countries still cover up the shadowy parts of their history. Germany today (or at least parts of it) is a great example of dealing thoughtfully with the darker parts of its history. I liked what I saw. The Forum was guided by the same spirit: systemic, self-reflective, open-minded, empathic, willing to explore one’s blind spot, and to explore the future by doing.

a clip on the Forum

Bojonegoro, Java, Indonesia. For the past several years I have been running an MIT executive education program called IDEAS Indonesia. It is based on systems thinking and Theory U and brings together young high-potential leaders from government, business, and civil society and guides them on a nine-month innovation journey—a journey that takes them to the edges of society and the self. The first weeklong module takes place at MIT. The following three modules are held in Indonesia. So every now and then I get to travel to Indonesia to co-facilitate one of the modules there.

This time I managed to visit one of the prototype initiatives that has emerged from a previous IDEAS program. It’s led by Pak Bupati SUYOTO, the Regent of the Regency in the district of Bojonegoro, who was one of last year’s participants. The focus of the prototype was on reducing corruption and improving the quality of government services in the district. After the decentralization of government in 2005 much of the governmental decisionmaking in Indonesia has moved from the center to the 400 Regencies that are governed by the directly elected Bupatis (Regents). While the decentralization generally is a good thing, the corruption of government officials remains a huge problem for the country.

The story that we heard in Bojonegoro is stunning. We learned that Pak Bupati SUYOTO came into power without any support from the established interest groups. Since he had no budget for his election campaign, he did the only thing he could: go to the villages and listen and engage in dialogue with the people there. And he did it very effectively, earning the most votes in the election, much to the surprise of the entire political establishment.

What’s even more surprising is that he managed to turn around the regency in the record time of two and a half years. Having always ranked high on corruption and low on service quality (the lowest 20% among the 400 regencies), it is now exactly the opposite: his Regency is now ranked among the top ten nationwide in the quality of government services among the 400 regencies. How was that stunning turnaround possible? I was scratching my head and wondering whether this turnaround could really be possible.

Here is what I have learned so far. On his first day in office Pak Bupati SUYOTO called for a general assembly with all government employees in his regency. When they showed up, many of the senior people expected to lose their jobs because they had actively worked against him during the campaign. The Bupati delivered two main messages. First: No one will be sacked. Everyone will keep their job. He doesn’t want to look back but to look forward, building a future that is different from the past. Second: The three don’ts: No money (no bribes), no complaints, and no “not my job” (“not my area of responsibility”) responses. When he delivered that message people were surprised, but most people didn’t believe it (80% of them remained skeptical). But by consistently living up to his key messages he managed to shrink the percentage of skeptics from 80% to 20% within a year.

One of the most important mechanisms that he used to do it was simply to close the feedback loop between government officials and the citizens of the community. He did four simple things:

1. He gave his cell phone number to citizens and told them that they could text him any time. Since then he has received hundreds of text messages every day. He responds to many of them personally. Many others he forwards to his directors and department heads in charge of the relevant issues. Everyone in his administration is expected to respond to an SMS from a citizen within a day or two.

2. Second, he instituted an open-door policy. Anyone can walk into his office any time.

3. Third, every Friday afternoon he conducts a community dialogue meeting to which all citizens are invited and which all his top civil servants are required to attend. I attended one of these meetings. First a farmer voiced his issue: he had no access to fertilizers. When he sat down the microphone went to the head of the department of agriculture to explain the problem and say what could be done to fix it. The department head was a bit defensive. But he also knew that next week he would be back here facing the same people. So he had every incentive to fix the problem within a week’s time. Next came a young woman in her 20s wearing a hijab (Muslim head scarf). She said she was an educator and needed books to improve her teaching work in the villages. The classes that she wanted to teach included sex education for girls, and there were no instructional materials available. I listened with my eyes wide open, mindful that I was watching a community meeting inside the biggest Muslim country on the planet, with lots of old men and religious community leaders sitting in the audience of 300. She completed her request without any sign of fear or hesitation. The Bupati responded and told her how to find the resources she needed. He said that one of the big U.S. oil companies had come to his office earlier that day (in fact, I had attended that meeting as an observer, shadowing the Bupati) and asked what they could do to help the community. The Bupati told the teacher that she should pose her request directly to the oil company and that she would probably get what she needed. If it didn’t work she should come to back to him. Everyone in the community was listening to the exchange between the young woman from the village and the Bupati—and that shared listening turned the bilateral exchange and her initiative into a legitimate community project.

4. Fourth, the Bupati takes his key officials on a joint trip to two or three villages where they go through a similar dialogue process on a local level every single day.

What do these four mechanisms add up to? A lot of listening. A lot of direct listening by government officials to the everyday experiences of citizens, and a direct dialogue between the citizens and their elected Bupati and his team. When I saw these four feedback loops in action I thought boy, that’s exactly what’s missing in our democratic institutions in the West (and other parts of the world) today. In the West, elected officials and top civil servants spend only a small amount of time authentically listening to their citizens. Instead they listen to the lobbyists and organized interest groups who financed their election campaigns, who buy their influence through bribes in two forms: illegal ones and legal ones in the form of undisclosed campaign contributions.

So in a nutshell, what I saw in Bojonegoro was the seeds of a regenerated democracy. It was deepening our existing democratic forms by making them more dialogic, direct, and distributed. We need the same kind of renewal in the West, but also in many other places around the world. I felt the power of connecting directly to the community of citizens in the State Hall of Bojonegoro when I was asked to address the community at the end of their gathering. I felt the power of being in synch with the base of your community.

Below is a picture of Pak Bupati SUYOTO. It’s a shot taken maybe five minutes after the end of the Friday dialogue I referred to above. While walking out he was approached by one of the citizens with a concern. He sat down with that guy on the doorstep of the meeting hall to talk it over. At the end of that 2-minute meeting the Bupati wrote and signed an order that helped the citizen get access to the department that could help him. This was direct, dialogic, and living democracy in action…

Bali, Indonesia. The presencing workshop with thirty leaders from government, civil society, and business across Indonesia was a transformative experience for all of us. One element of this five-day workshop was a collective mapping of the current situation in the country (“sculpture 1”) and how it could be transformed (“sculpture 2”). Inspired by some temple visits in Bali, we added three “observers of the system” when mapping the current reality: Brahman (the creative capacity), Shiva (the destructive capacity), and Vishnu (the capacity that holds the space) Vishnu emerged as the critical enabler by paying attention to and connecting the most marginalized players in system, holding the space for them. Like in the Netherlands before (and in many other constellations previosly), the new sculpture mapped the formerly marginalized players in the heart of the new configuration…

Sao Paulo, Brazil: Two experiences. I was invited to give a talk on transforming capitalism at the Institute for Democracy and Sustainability (IDS) in Sao Paulo. The people in attendance were a really interesting group of social entrepreneurs, formers Ministers and grassroot change makers. Many of them were from Marina Silva’s team, the Green global thought leader who won a stunning 20% in the 2010 Presidential election in Brazil (she herself was attending the climate conference in Durban). At the end of the discussion one participant said: “OK, Otto, I notice you’re trying to connect three different themes and communities: the first one is inspired social entrepreneurs, the second group is leaders of really big institutions in business and government, and the third one is intellectuals and economists who are thinking and reflecting on the transformation of capitalism. These three groups usually do not mix, they tend to stay separate.” I thought that was a great observation and insight. It’s true that these three groups tend to not mix and blend very well. Yet, in this age of disruptive change that we have entered now, it seems to more important than ever to accomplish precisely that…

Most of my time in Sao Paulo earlier in the week I spent working with Natura. Natura is a Brazil-based company that focuses on individual and collective well-being. Natura, founded in 1969, and today a $4.5 billion cosmetics company, has always inspired me since at its core it is about achieving well-being by bridging the three big divides of our time: the ecological divide, the social divide, and the spiritual divide. The company has always been an ecological innovator. It works with 1.3 million “consultants” at the base of the socio-economic pyramid in the country, and its essential mission is to connect people to the deeper sources of our humanity.

During this visit I had the opportunity to get to know two of the company’s founders: Luiz Seabra and Guilherme Leal. It was SUCH an inspiration to meet the two of them! Luiz embodies the presence of the open mind, open heart, and open will in a palpable way that continues to inspire his community of a million-plus collaborators (who touch more than 100 million customers with their products). Next I met with Guilherme Leal and some of his close collaborators. In his journey as an entrepreneur he extend his material entrepreunerial interest from business to people and planet, turning Natura into a pioneer in sustainable development, and joining Marina Silva as her running mate in the last presidential election. Both conversations and both men inspired me for different reasons. But what intrigued me most, maybe, was how they interacted with each other together: how respectful and supportive they were of each other, how they not only tolerated but appreciated the differences in each other. Seeing them interact made me understand the real origin of the empathic culture of Natura.

I also remembered the remark made by an audience member about the three separate communities: inspired social entrepreneurs; leaders of large institutions; thought leaders on transforming capitalism. I realized that on the other side of that lunch table I faced two men whose relationship with each other crossed the boundaries of these three communities. That is exactly what inspires me about working with Natura: helping company to advance the transformational leadership journey it is on, and linking personal transformation with systemic transformation in society and capitalism today…

Going home. As I type these words on my flight back to Boston, I’m thinking about how all this relates, how to connect all the dots. I feel as if we live in a field of intensifying connections and heightened disruptions and possibilities. What does that heightened field of possibility want us to do? Create a landing place for the future? Create a whole set of interconnected landing strips? Landing places that would reside in Brazil, Indonesia, Europe, Africa, the US? It could be called “” -– or it could be called something else. But to bring IT into reality is a call of the future that I feel. How to make it happen is the question I’m returning home with…

Which reminds me of a recent review meeting with the top 20 civil servants in the Ministry of Health in Namibia, who we helped to see and transform their system for the better. Reflecting back on their two- or three-year learning process, they referred to our quarterly meetings as a “University of Democracy,” which I thought was a very interesting name…


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Winds of change

Monday, February 14th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

As the wind of change is sweeping from Tahrir Square in Cairo across the Arab and non-Arab world, and thus inspiring all the rest of us, I have just returned from a road trip that was likewise full of experiences inspired by hope for change. Yes, the 18-day revolution that just happened in Egypt puts it right into the category of other nonviolent revolutions the world has seen—in South Africa (against apartheid); in Central Europe (to end the cold war); in North America (against racial discrimination); and in South Asia (to end colonial discrimination). Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Vaclav Havel are close relatives on the family tree of nonviolent resistance and grassroots leadership. Their type of leadership takes its power not from formal sources of authority, but from being connected to an emerging future possibility that young people especially feel very connected to.

Seeing the awakening of that leadership spirit in today’s young entrepreneurs and change makers is one of the most important sources of hope in our current age. Let me give you a few examples from my travels over the past few weeks:

–I spent a week in the Philippines with a group of young leaders from NGOs, education, and the business sector (ELIAS Philippines: Emerging Leaders Innovate Across Sectors). One of them is Bam Aquino the co-founder of Hapinoy. Hapinoy is a social business enterprise that is composed of dedicated young professionals who work in partnership with thousands of micro-entrepreneurs in the country. The guiding vision of this enterprise is to use microfinance to empower socially and economically challenged families. This social business enterprise uses business models to further social and ecological objectives. Today, Hapinoy has developed a full-service program that supports thousands of micro-entrepreneurs. The next evolutionary stage of this network would be to localize the distribution and the production of some of their products, thus offering even more entrepreneurial opportunities to those living at the base of the pyramid.

–Then I spent four days with a global group of over 600 biodynamic farmers from around the world, including other key players in the sustainable food value chain, as well as from schools, health, medicine, and inclusive education. Nicanor Perlas and Vandana Shiva (both of them recipients of the “alternative Nobel” Right Livelihood Award) also participated in this conference, which took place at the Goetheanum near Basel, Switzerland. For four days we took this group through the entire U process—a really powerful collective experience that sparked many new initiatives and generated an enormous amount of inspiration and energy. The younger farmers and participants in particular stepped up their leadership role in the movement. This experience reminded me that the whole economic process and all economic theory must start – where? – with NATURE—that is, with the EARTH, that is, with AGRICULTURE. This is why the biodynamic farmers, who are reinventing farming based on sustainability and social and spiritual awareness, are really interesting “acupuncture point” partners in transforming and evolving the economic system. Now everyone is back on their farm, and we will see how this story continues to unfold…

–After that I spent two days with principals and teachers of schools in the Netherlands. In the masterclass with 200 participants I started by asking how many of them already apply Theory U methods and tools in their everyday leadership and education practice. Half the hands went up: about a 100(!) of them. I was surprised to see that—and I don’t think they are representative of other countries. But it’s interesting how an almost unreadable book (Theory U) has slowly begun to reach the mainstream. Very slowly, though. What I found interesting about Holland is that it has (like Denmark) a rather progressive professional education community that now is dealing with a right-leaning government that emphasizes test scores and other short-term noise. Yet that noise from the political system has not kept the overall professional community from progressing (at least in many cases) toward better educational environments. I think that’s really cool.

–Even in Davos at the World Economic Forum, where I had the opportunity to present in three sessions (on cross-sector innovation, on transforming capitalism, and on mindfulness-based leadership), I found that more and more people are aware of the larger wind of change that is now starting to reshape and shatter even some of the most entrenched institutions on earth. What’s next? Who is the Mubarak in global finance that will crumble next? Who is it in the global food system? There is a lot that we can learn from Egypt—and we are just at the very beginning of that unfolding story.
–My final stop was in Zurich, where I was privileged to meet with two leaders of a group of Deans and Rectors who share a passion of mine: how to reinvent the 21st century business school? The name of the initiative is World Business School Council for Sustainable Business. Its members, Deans and Presidents of 20 globally leading b-schools, want to reinvent their institutions, working toward sustainability, social innovation, and entrepreneurship. They have asked me to work with them at their first strategic meeting in New York this spring, where they want to collectively create a new vision of the 21st-century business school. I find this initiative extremely inspiring since it squarely addresses a deep aspiration I have always had: to contribute to co-creating a global, green, generative leadership school (what I have called a—a topic I will return to in future blog entries.

For now I am happy to be back home and beginning to focus on a new book about transforming the economy and economics toward business and society 4.0.

That’s my little report. How does that resonate with your experience? Where do you see the winds of change happening? Thanks for sharing some of your experiences from wherever you happen to be on this planet!


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Connecting the dots

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The past two weeks were amazing. It feels as if we’ve stepped into a new space. Five years after the first co-initiation meeting for the Presencing Institute and about ten years after starting to create a set of living examples, tools, and capacity building mechanisms, as well as research results, we finally took a significant step towards the primary intention that guided us from the very outset of this journey: forming a global action leadership school that convenes, connects, and co-inspires change makers across generations, sectors, and cultures. The purpose of the school is to cultivate the “inner condition of the intervenor,” to shift the inner place from which we operate. It will be an instrument for catalyzing positive change on all levels of society (from personal to global) and shifting from ego-system to eco-system awareness by creating an economy that works for all.

We have been prototyping the core components of the school in a variety of places – but we had never created a global core group of master practitioners who would be at the heart and frontline of the project. Last week we did. We launched the first Presencing Institute Masterclass (“Presencing-in-Action Lab”) with 75 participants from 24 countries and all continents. This amazing group represents an inspiring microcosm of change initiatives that are currently are under way around the world. The Masterclass will meet four times from Fall 2010 to Summer 2012 (for about a week each time) in order to help each other deepen the impact of these change initiatives and function as a global field of inspired connections. The members will also continue to generate new ideas, connections, initiatives, and collective creativity.

Launching the Masterclass (Lab) was one big step (pictures).

Presencing-in-Action Lab

The other one concerns Social Presencing Theater. Social Presencing Theater is a practice that links awareness, embodiment, constellation principles, practical applications, and theater. The Masterclass was the first place where we used social presencing theater as a principal diagnostic tool in cases brought by the participants. The results were stunning. Powerful stuff. Seeing this line of work – which Arawana Hayashi has been pioneering at the Presencing Institute over the past few years – rise to the very center of our application and capacity building work was the other breakthrough that made my heart jump for joy.

Energetically, it feels as if we have crossed an important threshold as a community of change makers. The global online community now includes more than 4,500 individuals from many cultures. For example, last week’s Presencing Foundation Program in Boston took place with more than 90 participants (oversubscribed more than a month earlier). I get the same response in other places and communities. In workshops and discussions with leaders from the World Bank in D.C. and the UN in Europe earlier this week I felt the same opening. It’s so evident to most of us that “more of the same” simply is not an option. That premise opens up a whole new territory of awareness and conversation.

My main insight from these last two weeks is something very simple: until now I had thought that creating the new school would be something we would do “in the future.” But now, with the help of some close colleagues and friends, I am starting to realize that maybe we ARE ALREADY operating the school: the Masterclass (Lab), the various Foundation Programs, Global Classroom courses, the tri-sector leadership development work for countries (ELIAS/IDEAS), as well as the various practical applications, are all vibrant aspects of the emerging school.

More on this sometime later this week.

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