I was privileged to attend one of the very first Theory U Presencing Workshops, presented by the MIT Sloan School of Management all the way back in 2008. This means that I have been able to observe, engage with, and participate in the evolution of Presencing and Theory U as powerful vehicles for effecting transformational change and learning.

Intentional change and learning 

I have seen and experienced the growth of the global Presencing community, as it transformed from a small, diverse thought leadership group in the USA into a global movement. They have seeded a range of deeply disruptive core concepts, as described in their groundbreaking book Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future. While they introduced a radical new theory about change and learning, I also participated in its evolution into its current manifestation–as a global movement for profound transformational change. This movement seeks to create intentional shifts that break old patterns of seeing and acting. By encouraging deeper levels of attention and intention, as well as deep and continuous learning, there is increased knowledge of the larger systemic whole, ultimately leading us to adopt new and different mindsets, behaviours, actions, and systems.

A turning point

It is suggested by many that, post-COVID-19, we are at a turning point–a critical moment in time, where all of us, individually and collectively, have the chance to focus our attention toward activating, harnessing, and mobilising change to shape our futures. The emergence, divergence, and convergence of new patterns of working and learning, coupled with the impact of the global pandemic, have accelerated changes faster than many of us believed previously possible.

Paradoxically, we are also facing an uncertain future. According to the World Economic Forum Job Reset Summit, “[while] vaccine rollout has begun and the growth outlook is predicted to improve, and even socio-economic recovery is far from certain”. This applies to us all, no matter where you are located or how you are professionally aligned.

Leveraging the turning point

But this turning point is full of possibilities and innovative opportunities. We have the potential to enable organisations, leaders, teams, people, and customers to embrace change and learning in creative and inventive ways. This change will shape our evolution and our futures in ways that are:

  • Purposeful and meaningful.
  • Speedy, agile, and simple.
  • Innovative.

This will result in improving equity, sustainability, growth, and future-fitness. In an ever-changing landscape, deeply impacted by technology and digitisation, we must put ourselves into the service of what is wanting to emerge in this unique moment in time.

Forward-looking leadership

The need for strong leadership is validated by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in a recent article on the key strategies employed by most innovative companies in 2021. The article clearly states that “forward-looking leaders soon looked to broader needs affecting their companies’ futures, such as resilience, digital transformation, and customer relevance”.

Like the authors of Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future have argued, there is a real need to build the systemic ability to drive change, learning, and innovation. We can drive transformation into real results by:

  1. Clarifying a clear ambition: that is meaningful and purposeful, compelling, and engaging, aligning to people’s values and helps build “one team” mindsets.
  2. Building systemic innovation domains: that are strategically and culturally aligned, enabling people and technology to connect, explore, discover, design, and deliver ambition.
  3. Performance management: that acknowledges and rewards collaborative achievements, results in transformational change and learning through smart risk-taking and experimentation.
  4. Project management: that provides rigour and discipline, through a human-centred, agile approach that allows people and teams to make the necessary shifts in assigning and delivering projects.
  5. Talent and culture: by exercising leadership that brings people and teams together, we can foster openness, transparency, permission, and trust so people can innovate. 

By supporting and sponsoring change initiatives by harnessing and mobilizing collective genius, we help to generate discovery and challenges to the status quo.

A moment in time

Some thirteen years later, Otto Scharmer, one of the original authors of the Presencing movement book, shared a letter with the global Presencing community. He said “…it feels as if we have collectively crossed a threshold and entered a new time. A time that was there already before, but more as a background presence. A time that some geologists proposed to refer to as the Anthropocene, the age of humans. Living in the Anthropocene means that basically all the problems, all the challenges we face on a planetary scale are caused by… ourselves”.

He also stated that “[being] alive at such a profound planetary threshold moment poses a critical question to each and every one of us: What is my response to all of this, what is our response to this condition, how am I – and how are we – going to show up in this moment?”

Showing up in this moment 

Change and learning today involves people developing their knowledge, mindsets, behaviours, skills and habits. So you must make a fundamental choice about how you wish to show up right now, either as a leader, a manager, a business owner, or as an employee. This is crucial to making your contribution and commitment to shaping your own future as well as the collective future.

Taking just a moment 

It may, in fact, be beneficial, to take just a moment – to hit your pause button, retreat into reflection, and ask yourself Otto’s question. How am I, and how are we as a business, going to show up at this moment?

Drawing on my experience as an innovative start-up entrepreneur in Israel, people can either be forced to change through conflict and adversity, or they can choose to change through seeing the world with fresh eyes. Seeing the world full of possibility, positivity, optimism, and self-transcendence can help them to innovate and thrive.

  • How might you develop the courage to make transformational and systemic changes? How will you prioritise learning and innovation in order to push through adversity? Can you capitalise on this moment to unleash possibilities and optimism?
  • How might you develop the compassion to focus on developing both customer and human centricity in ways that are purposefully meaningful and aligned to people’s values and contribute to the good of the whole (people, profit, and planet)?
  • How might you creatively transform your time, people, and financial investments to drive out complacency, build change readiness, and deliver deep and continuous change?

Not only should you take advantage of the moment in time, but also use transformational change and learning to extend your practice or organisation’s future fitness and life expectancy. According to a recent article in Forbes, “[half] of the giants we now know may no longer exist by the next decade. In 1964, a company on the S&P 500 had an average life expectancy of 33 years. This number was reduced to 24 years in 2016 and is forecast to shrink further to 12 years by 2027”. By pushing for transformational learning, you can increase your organisation’s lifespan and lifetime value. 

This is the final thought piece in our series on Developing a Human-Centric Future-Fitness organisation.