In our most recent call, Dr. Otto Scharmer suggested that there are two main drivers for waking up the workplace, or change in general: desperation and aspiration.
How desperation can wake us up
These are indeed times of desperation for many. In the face of huge systemic challenges, we often lose the sense of meaning and connectedness that comes from knowing that we can make a difference. Commenting on exactly this link between the personal and the systemic, Otto suggested that “the most systemic is actually the most personal.”
Changing what we do (behavior), or how we do things (structures and processes) isn’t going to cut it. Coming out of years of research, Otto Scharmer’s Theory U suggests profound change requires us to access not only our open mind, but also our open heart and our open will (i.e. changing how we see, how we feel, and how we are).
The desperation of today’s systemic challenges, then, is driving us to actually bring our whole selves to work. We simply can’t deal with these challenges effectively if we’re merely acting from within the boundaries of our institutional roles.
How aspiration can wake us up
On top of that, Otto is seeing a second driver for waking up the workplace: aspiration. More and more people today, and particularly young people, have a deep longing to link what they’re doing in their job to their deeper aspirations in life in a more direct way. Put differently, evolving our ‘work’ into our ‘Work’, which means connecting what you do to your calling, your purpose, to making a difference.
In short: whether it’s out of desperation, aspiration, or both, ‘work’ as we know it is facing increasing evolutionary pressure to wake up.
Transforming ‘work’ into ‘Work’ through presence
So how is Otto suggesting that we do that, exactly? Through ‘presencing’ (‘sensing’ + ‘presence’), which refers to the capacity for sensing and actualizing an emerging future possibility. This is quite different from ‘normal’ learning, where you reflect on past experiences and draw conclusions from them. Presencing means listening to the future, and acting not from ego but from that heightened state of presence and awareness.
To be effective in doing that, you have to go through a very personal process. It often requires letting go of fears and assumptions, and connecting deeply to yourself and others. The ‘connecting’ part seems to be important, judging from the frequency with which it came up in conversation. Connecting to your Self and your Work, connecting to others, connecting to nature, and ultimately, connecting to an emerging future possibility.
Good artists, innovators, and entrepreneurs know how to do this. It’s not new. What is new, is the evolutionary pressure for intentionally cultivating the capacity for presencing on a collective scale. For Otto, what is so important today, is that we build communities for sensing, listening, connecting, and supporting each other in creating what he calls “landing strips for the future.”
Otto’s question for all of us
Before we concluded our call, there was one question that Otto wanted to offer to all of us listening in:
“We are drawn into this space because, probably, we feel the possibility of a different way of living and working together. We feel the possibility and maybe have had glimpses of that experience, that there is actually a future possibility in my life that I can make happen, and there’s a way of connecting, for me, with that state of awareness. […]
So we being connected in this call right now, that gives us a feeling of being connected to a larger whole, that maybe one, two days out, I may have lost again. So what is it that we could do that would allow us more regularly and more easily to connect to that larger whole, that sometimes we get and sometimes we lose? That’s the question I want to leave with.”
Sound familiar? It’s been an extraordinary experience for us, interviewing these amazing pioneers and thoughtleaders on a weekly basis. We have a few more calls to go, but I think Otto’s question is quite a timely one. How do we actually create infrastructures and spaces for connecting to this larger whole and deeper source?
We’d love to hear your thoughts on what it is that we could do, individually and particularly collectively!