[SoL] Opening Session

Notes from the opening session of the Society for Organizational Learning Global Forum 2005, Vienna Austria, September 13, 2005.
Table discussion: “What question lies at the heart of your work?”
* MJ: How to turn pattern observations into action in the world?
* Tony: How to make learning as accepted as knowing?
* Georgie: Where will the energy come from to make our public institutions value public input?
* Fred: How to make a world where you are what you do?
* Anna: How to learn together in ways that heal each other and the world?
* Glenda: how to transcend the divide of theory and practice?
* Tuija: How to bring entrepreneurial spirit to young people?
Otto Scharmer, via video, discussing the U-theory outlined in Presence. The basics of the U-theory were a shared understanding for most people at the Forum. If you haven’t read this, you can skim the diagrams from the book at a bookstore, or here is an introductory excerpt (pdf) from the forthcoming book.
MJ note: Otto is a good German scientist, and he doesn’t seem to be winging it. The U-theory was developed from 150 interviews with scientists, artists, and innovators in many different fields. The goal was to understand where ‘new ideas’ come from, and why some people are particularly good at generating them. It seems to boil down to an ability to tune into the future, that is, not “see” the future, but to “harmonize” with the gestalt or zeitgeist and act in an appropriate manner. This is my interpretation – if you have a deeper understanding please use the comments to help!
What does it take to access our deeper knowledge and experience? How do we shift the social field? Apply your tools to cultivating “culture.” Think about the soil in agriculture; need to dig into it, not just put things on top of it. Work with the intersection of the visible and invisible.

Move from          To
this:           this:
Visible field           ||            ||   /\
\/            ||   ||
/\            ||   ||
Invisible field         ||            \/   ||

MJ: Reminds me of why I was interested fractals – they define the boundary between real and imaginary numbers, and have infinite length (perhaps depth).
The invisible social field is the place from where attention originates.
What’s the leverage point in social fields? Our capacity to see and shift the structure of our attention.
Follow-up: Read the Brian Arthur HBR article. Brian was one of the significant learning points for the U-theory.
Two types of cognition:
1. Download from someone or otherwise acquire, and apply our existing framework. So-called “learning.” Profound innovations do not arise from this process.
2. The other type (I missed what he named this. Might be “Seeing” or “Sensing.” Might be “Generative.”)
a. Observe, observe, observe. Immerse yourself in the situation.
b. Retreat & reflect. Create silence where knowing surfaces.
c. Act in an instant. Create a microcosm where you can explore/discover the new without reverting to downloading your existing patterns/habits/memories. Profound innovations tend to happen “in an instant” after a long period of observing and reflecting.
Three thresholds “on the way down” (down the U):
1. Open Mind. Move from where our perception is going to outside. From downloading to seeing. Open the “open mind.” Use precise observation. Shut down the “VOJ” – Voice of Judgement, a term used by Stanford creativity expert Michael Ray. In Presence, this is referred to as “suspending.” Diagram of a circle with a dot in it. Our attention is the dot, and the circle is the curtain of our habitual perception. “projecting thoughts onto the curtain.”
2. Open Heart/Sensing. Begin to access a different source of intelligence, including the heart. Perception begins to happen from a different place. When you are truly listening with empathy you can apprehend what they are about to say. Diagram of a circle with a dot on the edge of the circle. Our attention is now at the edge of our typical perception, looking outward. “Open the curtains to see outside.”
3. Open Will/Presencing. The word has from two intents. Sensing: Connect with your higher future potential. Pre: Access sensing in the present. Diagram of circle with dot outside. Our attention is now at another place, looking at our own mind in the field of all other objects. [MJ note: Worth re-reading Kegan’s subject/object theory again – “In Over Our Heads” or “The Evolving Self” – to tie to this.]
Ottos’s video is done. It was a short segment of a longer piece. I wonder if we can watch the whole thing anywhere. I wish he would finish his book to read more of this material!
Final notes from opening session:
* Listen to the motivation for the words, not the words themselves.
* Connected listening requires the body to be present.
* What I wrote was: Listening is harder than listening. I wonder what I meant. Maybe: Empathic listening is harder than listening.
* Suspend answers and stay with questions.
* Hold humility and set an intent to receive.