In the world of Transformation, not all theories are equal….

With the complexity of our systems (social, economic, political and ecological), a systemic approach is the only way to embrace the complexity of our World, understand the interdependencies of all stakeholders, and try to decipher a path for change.

Theory U is a change management method developed by Otto Scharmer with colleagues at MIT, after conducting 150 interviews with entrepreneurs and innovators in science, business and society.

Theory U is based on several key principles that set it apart from other theories of change :

  1. Consciousness is THE enabler of Change
  2. Self-awareness of the system itself is key to changing it (from within)

This theory is based on the premise that most of our problems come from a triple divide that is making us blind to the root cause of those problems: The ecological, social, and spiritual-cultural divides represent three different tips of the massive iceberg of institutional failure.

    Theory U proposes four operating systems that represent the different stages of systems evolution (image below), in order to move from the current 2.0 Output & Efficiency Centric system to a 3.0 Outcome & User Centric, and finally to the holy grail 4.0 Regenerative & Eco-System Centric Operating System.

    Achieving this requires a radical shift of perspective: from ego(centric) to eco(system approach).

    After decades of inaction and marginal changes, one needs to understand the missing link between the Mind (decision centre) and the Body (that does the action). In Theory U, like in many spiritual traditions and recent neurosciences discoveries, it is the Heart.

    While that might not sound like a “business” discussion, we all live and go to work with emotions that dramatically influence our thinking, decisions and actions. Becoming aware of those is the key to unlocking consciousness, and deeply connecting to the root cause of our societal and ecological problems.

    From a personal point of view, after reading the book in 2020 (Theory U: Leading from the Future as It Emerges), it was my 3rd experience going through the U process, each time going deeper in understanding and sensing the experience.

    With my very analytical engineering mind, it’s sometimes difficult to let go and get to deeper levels of connections with Self, Others, Society at large, and the living Ecosystems around us.

    Building on many personal development disciplines (mindfulness, non-violent communications, body expression, …), the Theory U process allows you to access that deeper listening of what is at stake, let go, allow the most positive future to emerge…. leading the Change from the Heart

    It might sound and feel weird, but witnessing ExCom members practising empathic listening and embodying their hopes and fears through body posture, to finally reconnect to their emotions is one of the paths towards true, meaningful change. Having been a C-level executive for years in the corporate “disconnection machine” (to time, self, and the real world), I can attest that it is a beautiful way to reconnect and change perspective!

    It is time to consider that Consciousness is indeed the main necessary condition to Transform Business and Transition to a Regenerative Economy. Maybe even assume the word “spirituality” in the business context: what is connecting us to something bigger than us, and life in general?

    If you want to know more about Theory U and how to apply it to your company, here is a great interview of Otto Charmer in Sismique by Julien Devaureix.

    You can also check the last Keynote of Otto at ChangeNow 2023:

    And for more info on theory U:

    Consciousness & Science (Technology) are the 2 forces that can lead us to the new world.
    Stay tuned to dive deeper into those topics with us.

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