Theory U and the Presencing Process: Experiencing the Power of Emergence

We’ve been wondering lately how we could further improve our practice in the Emergence Phase of group processes, thereby also capatilising on this central moment in a change process for improved impact. When designing the sequence of work steps of any change process, we usually follow an overall “Divergence – Emergence – Convergence” pattern. This allows us to guide a group through the required steps of connecting to each other, clarifying the common task at hand, scanning their larger environment, learning from the past, future, each other or novelty, i.e. collectively seeing the whole picture from different perspectives and in all its nuances, before co-creating a new vision and the action steps required to realise it.

The Emergence Phase lies at the heart of a change process and is key to enabling something new (or existing but reaffirmed, and hence from a different quality) to surface, based on peer-to-peer learning and insights gained. Allowing for sufficient time and an appropriate space that is safe, not too prescriptive, yet contained enough, we enable a group to come up with innovative ways forward, rather than rushing into finding (the same or slightly different) solutions based on the same old perceptions or paradigm (i.e. doing what hasn’t worked so far differently). We thus refer to Emergence to describe the pivotal moment in a transformative event.

I was very fortunate to attend the Presencing Foundation Programme in Cape Town recently under the very capable and most inspiring guidance of the wonderfully mutually complementing female trio: Marian Goodman, Beth Jandernoa and Kassee Mhoney. The theoretical foundation of this programme is Otto Scharmer’s “Theory U”.  We spent three and a half days in a learning community of about 45 participants. It was an amazing journey that allowed me to gain clarity and reassurance on my own Self, my Purpose and Work; and find great inspiration to further improve our Emergence Practice.

Most importantly, I experienced the power of Emergence or rather, in the Theory U terminology, “Presencing” – “going to the place of silence and allowing the inner knowing to emerge”. In the U jargon the sequence of change events is referred to as follows: Co-intiating (uncover common intent), Co-sensing (observe, observe, observe), Presencing (connect to the source of inspiration and will), Co-creating (prototype the new) and Co-evolving (embody the new in ecosystems).
“Presencing,” a blend of the words “presence” and “sensing,” refers to the ability to sense and bring into the present one’s highest future potential—as an individual and as a group. Theory U offers both a new theoretical perspective and a practical social technology. As a theoretical perspective, Theory U suggests that the way in which we attend to a situation determines how a situation unfolds: I attend this way, therefore it emerges that way. As a practical social technology, Theory U offers a set of principles and practices for collectively creating the future that wants to emerge (following the movements of co-initiating, co-sensing, co-inspiring, co-creating, and co-evolving).

The Presencing Process is a journey that connects us more deeply both to what wants to emerge in the world and to our emerging, higher self. I-P-K is now represented in the Global Presencing Institute Community as well as the local Cape Town Theory U Practitioner Group. I look forward to applying my learning and insight around Theory U and Presencing and sharing as I go along with all of you!

For more information you might also want to visit The Presencing Institute (PI) is a global awareness based action research community for profound societal innovation and change. The PI community focuses on advancing presencing and related awareness based social technologies and making them available to change makers, innovators, and communities around the world.

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