The DGMT Learning Lunch

The Learning Lunch - Theory U: Create the future

November 26, 2021 DG Murray Trust
The DGMT Learning Lunch
The Learning Lunch - Theory U: Create the future
Show Notes

As civil society, we see ourselves as drivers of change. But, sometimes we can get so bogged down in the day-to-day humdrum of our work, that we lose our energy and drive to explore new terrain – to find new ways of doing things. We also sometimes lose sight of the inner progression that is happening in ourselves, and our role in manifesting the future.

Developed by Otto Scharmer, Theory U is an approach to creating change based on a process of inner knowing and social innovation. Professor Scharmer says: “When you deal with managing change, the bulk of the job is moving people from a “silo view” to a “systems view” – or, as we would say, from an egosystem awareness to an eco-system awareness. In fact, what surprises me most is how reliably we can create conditions that allow for that kind of shift in awareness to happen. You can’t manufacture it. You can’t mould it like a piece of metal by hammering on it from the outside. But you can create a set of inner and outer conditions that allows a group, an organisation, or a system to make that move, to sense and see themselves from the emerging whole”. He continues: “There is a distinction between two types of cognition: normal (downloading from existing mental frameworks) versus a deeper level of knowing … to activate the deeper level of knowing, one has to go through a three-step process:  

  1. Observe - Become one with the situation
  2. Retreat - Go to the deeper source of knowing, Access that knowing and let it come to the surface
  3. Act - Act swiftly for the deeper knowing

To help us understand Theory-U, we spoke to Hans van der Veen, a Clinical Psychologist who founded the Klein Karoo U.lab, which is based on the principles of Theory U. The Klein Karoo U.lab has taken on interesting community projects, including a Theory-U process with one of the high schools in Oudtshoorn to see if the participants who were teachers, parents, learners, could create approaches that would bring positive change to the school. With Hans, is Lisl Barry, a parent at Oudtshoorn High School, who participated in that process and who shares her experience and what she thinks they achieved at Oudtshoorn High School by using the Theory-U process.

Learn more here.