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Are U ready for change?

February 20, 2024

We all have seen the iceberg illustration, that only 10% is visible and the rest is under water.

Otto Scharmer was born in 1961 and has spent the last 20+ years at MIT. He is the designer of the Theory U, the idea that what we see is only about 10% of an issue. The other 90% is often hidden and takes a while to uncover. He talks about the top 10% being the visible symptoms of a situation. The other 90% are made up of systems and structures, values and beliefs, and the paradigm of thought. Think of them as the different layers under the water.

The visible symptoms (which could be anything, from an argument with a friend, to global warming), are only a fraction of what is really happening. To make decisions based on the 'visible issue' alone is never going to solve the problem.

Scharmer designed the U theory to help come to a deeper understanding of the under-lying issues that are part of decision making. Now, imagine a big U on a piece of paper, in the center is you with an open mind, open heart and open will. You want to solve a problem but there seems to be resistance. Imagine going through these 5 steps, starting on the left of the U and ending on the right of the U. There are 5 stages to engage more deeply and learn to observe what is happening.

In the first two stages you observe, observe, observe.

Convene – creating a shared space with others for common intentions.
Observe – asking questions and making connections.
Reflect - a moment of transformation where you set aside your own ideas and start to become open to others. In this stage you retreat and reflect. In the last two you start acting together and coming up with new and better solutions.
Act - 'aha' moments and new ideas come up.
Harvest – creating networks together and taking new learning to the next level.

With elections just around the corner, this is what it could look like:
Instead of arguing with people, judging them for their opinions and only seeing the top 10% of their thinking, why not take the time to work through this process?
Start with having an open mind, an open heart, and an open will.

Convene- create a space where you can have deeper conversations, ask questions of each other, get to know the person and the under-lying 90%.
Observe - find common ground, learn from the other person, understand why they are thinking this way and create some deeper meaning in your relationship.
Reflect – you can start co-creating a better understanding. Act on your Aha! moments.
Harvest is the final step - being better and bigger together, creating something more robust and powerful together.

I know this seems a little esoteric, but just try it out. Have a conversation with someone who thinks differently than you do and see if the two of you cannot learn from each other and make our world a better and safer place together. Our world can become a better place when we look below the 10% of the visible and see and learn from what is underneath the surface.

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