Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Urban Practice, Mindfulness, Theory U, and the Emerging Future

Over two mornings last month Group Epignosis (an urban ecolab) co-hosted a "live stream" of the Presencing Institute's - Global Forum 2014 from downtown Roanoke's, 16 West Marketplace. Presented as an Urban Practitioner's Workshop, the event afforded its participants a unique opportunity to engage a shared learning experience by together, exploring their emerging future.

Urban Practitioner's Workshop
Published in September, "A Marriage of Sense and Soul" pointed to a "psychosocial" condition various thought leaders including Ken Wilber has referred to as dissociation, Charles Eisenstein terms separation, and Otto Scharmer in his recently issued, "Leading from the Emerging Future" frames in three parts. These gaps are depicted as an ecological divide between "self and nature", a social divide involving a "disconnect between self and other", and a spiritual-cultural divide reflecting "a disconnect between self and Self--that is, between one's current "self" and the emerging future "Self" that represents one's greatest potential" (Scharmer, Introduction 4).

The basis of this issue was reflected in a 1996 discussion between Peter Senge and  Nan Huai-Chin about whether the spiritual teacher "thought that the industrial age was going to create such environmental problems that" we'd "destroy ourselves" or whether we'd "find a way to understand these problems" and subsequently reshape the institutions themselves. Viewing this dilemma from a "deeper level" however, Master Nan rejoined, "There's only one issue in the world. It's the reintegration of mind and matter" (Senge).

"Three Levels: Symptoms; Systemic Disconnects; Paradigms of Economic Thought" (Scharmer, 10 insights)

Not by coincidence though, this is effectively Wilber's focal point in, The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion. Thus, where "the governing principles of the hundred or so democratic nations in today's world" are said to reflect "the principles of modernity--that is, the values of the liberal Western Enlightenment" or "the dignity of modernity" (Marriage 44); "by the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth" centuries it "was already drifting into a painful and pathological dissociation" [emphasis added] (Marriage 55).

Consequently too, and in adopting thought systems or consciousness practices to address, bridge, or otherwise heal these socioeconomic and geopolitical fractures; Scharmer realized that the "meditative or phenomenological process" enlisted for "studying the transformation of the individual mind" was essentially the same for both group and "larger systems". As he says, "(t)hat really was the birth moment of Theory U". Likewise, and in a recent interview with Russ Volckmann for the Integral Leadership Review, he confided that although this focus resides primarily in a "state-based framework", it's not an especially "long jump to . . . make it the foundation for a stage-based developmental approach to different system levels" [emphasis added] (Volckmann).

"Theory U: One Process, Three Instruments (Open Mind, Open Heart, Open Will)" (Scharmer, 10 insights)

Furthermore, while the three divides manifest themselves in various symptoms extending above the surface, much like the tip of an iceberg represents only a portion of its greater mass, our collective best efforts to resolve such problems all too often, end only in "results that nobody wants". On a global scale, and for Scharmer, this seems to be evidenced in the following:
  1. Ecological Divide - "The number 1.5 represents our ecological crisis. Although we have only one planet Earth, we deplete and degrade our natural capital on a massive scale, using up more resources every year. We live as if we have more than one planet at our disposal, using the equivalent of 1.5 planets just to meet our current consumption."
  2. Social Divide - "The number 2.5 represents our social crisis. Two and a half billion people on our planet live in poverty. There have been many successes at lifting people out of poverty, but this number, 2.5, has not changed much over the past few decades."
  3. Spiritual-Cultural Divide - "The number 3 represents our inner or spiritual crisis. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), three times as many people die from suicide as die from homicide or in wars." (Scharmer, Leading)
Likewise too, but because "(c)lassical methods and concepts of organizational learning" involving "variations of the same Kolb (1984) based learning cycle" generally entail "reflecting on the experiences of the past", a successful resolution of current planetary challenges cannot be "approached this way" for the simple reason that "the experience base" of respective team members almost inevitably proves inadequate "for the issue at hand". Thus, Scharmer proposes the importance of developing new cognitive capabilities for sensing (or presencing) through which, organizations and leaders can engage "a different kind of learning cycle" which in turn, "allows them to learn from the future as it emerges, rather than from reflecting on past experiences" (Scharmer, Presencing).

"The Importance of the Mindfulness Tipping Point" (Huffington)

It's for these reasons though that Otto's recent interview with Arianna Huffington (of The Huffington Post) at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos, and their subsequent discussion about "The Importance of the Mindfulness Tipping Point", is so revealing. Along these same lines, and as he explains in an accompanying blog, the experience left him with three distinct impressions:
  1. Mindfulness - "Mindfulness is close to reaching a tipping point" even though it and "mindful leadership" were introduced as a subject of interest "at the WEF for the first time" only "two years ago". He further points to three drivers behind this movement including, "new tech", "new challenges", and "new science" (emphasis added).
  2. Hotspots - The primary attraction bringing 2500 of "the world's elite business, government and thought leaders in civil society" to the World Economic Forum in Davos is the "field of human interconnectivity that flows through the corridors, lounges, coffee bars, dinner tables, evening parties, and shuttle rides." The hotspots! (emphasis added).
  3. Sleepwalkers - If Davos is a mirror reflecting the world of 1914, then historian Christopher Clark's, Sleepwalkers may offer deep insight into the hokum of a "financial elite" who believe "the economy is back, or coming back" and still others ascribing to an "official political rhetoric about sustainable development" or "sustainable growth" (emphasis added).  
As a result, and further noting "a profound disconnect between financial and political elites" Scharmer surmises, anyone claiming "that "more of the same" will put our societies on the path of well-being and shared prosperity is either cynical or in denial of the facts--in short, is sleepwalking" (Scharmer, Davos).

In a recent blog entitled, "Cultivating Collective Mindfulness: The Leader's New Work" and again, contemplating his experience in Davos, Scharmer concludes:

"The root cause of our current economic and civilizational crisis is not Wall Street (although the decoupling of the financial and the real economy is a huge problem). It’s not infinite growth (although overusing earth’s finite resources is another enormous problem). It’s not Big Business or Big Government (although their disconnect from the real needs in our communities needs to be fixed). It’s also not leadership, governance, or ownership. The primary root cause is more fundamental than any of these structural issues or systemic disconnects.

Our current crisis originates between our ears: in our outdated paradigms of economic thought. It originates in the disconnect between our dominant models of economic thought (which gravitate around ego-system awareness, in which stakeholders maximize benefit only for themselves) and the collaboration imperatives of our global eco-system economy (in which stakeholders seek to improve the well-being of all, including themselves). We have an enormous disconnect between ego-system thinking and the eco-system reality."

Consequently, he contends "(w)hat's really needed is a deeper shift of consciousness. We need to care and act not just for ourselves and a few close partners, but in the interest of the entire eco-system in which economic activity takes place". In this same way then, "(t)he economic imperative of our time calls for an evolution of the dominant logic and operating system from one that is based on ego-system awareness to one that is based on eco-system awareness".

And in just this way, the future is emerging . . .



Huffington, Arianna (2014): "The Importance of the Mindfulness Tipping Point." Aol.on. 25 Jan. 2014. Web. 25 Feb. 2014.

"The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion." (2013): "Part I: The Problem." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 27 June 2013. Web. 13 Feb. 2014. 

McConnell, Brian (2013): "A Marriage of Sense and Soul: Embodying Integral Leadership in the City 2.0." Integral Leadership Review, Feature Article, August-November Edition, 17 Sept. 2013. Web. 13 Feb. 2014.

Scharmer, Otto (2013): "10 insights on the Ego-2-Eco Economy Revolution." Otto's Blog. 10 Sept. 2013. Web. 2 Mar. 2014.
---. "Cultivating Collective Mindfulness: The Leader's New Work." Otto's Blog. 6 Feb. 2014. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.
---. "Davos: Mindfulness, Hotspots, and Sleepwalkers." The Huffington Post 26 Jan. 2014: The Third Metric. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.
---. "Introduction: Breathing Life into a Dying System.", Leading From the Emerging Future: From Ego-System To Eco-System Economies. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. 2013. Web. 8 Feb. 2014.
---. "Leading from the Emerging Future." Minds for Change - Future of Global Development: Ceremony to Mark the 50th Anniversary of the BMZ, November 13, 2011. Conference paper. Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Berlin 2011. Web. 1 Mar. 2014.
---. "Presencing: Learning From the Future As It Emerges (On the Tacit Dimension of Leading Revolutionary Change)." Conference On Knowledge and Innovation, May 25-26, 2000, Helsinki School of Economics, Finland and October 20, 2000, MIT Sloan School of Management, OSG. Web. 7 Mar. 2014.

Volckmann, Russell (2013): "Otto Scharmer: Theory U -- Leading from the Future as It Emerges." Integral Leadership Review, Fresh Perspectives, August-November Edition, 13 Oct. 2013. Web. 21 Feb. 2014.

Wilber, Ken (1998): The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion. New York: Random House, 1998. Print.