When was the last time you were in a conversation so riveting you waited uncomfortably for a break, afraid of what you might miss if you left the room, even for a quick trip to the bathroom? I was just in such a conversation that lasted for a day and a half. The discussion was incredibly tight without the usual tangents. In a world of chronic “know and tell” we were transformed to A+ listeners. We were engaged in the U Process and “Presencing” led by Otto Scharmer.
For the past year we in LLC have been looking at the collective nature of leadership and leadership practices that cultivate our capacity for collective action. The U Process has risen to the top and captured my attention as a “must check out” process that seeks to unleash the creative and collective potential of diverse groups seeking breakthrough changes.
I had read enough about this work and its application to sustainable food projects in Brazil and child nutrition in India to be intrigued and eager for a chance to experience the Theory U in action. I jumped at the chance when I was invited to participate in a group of people from NGOs, government, and foundations who were coming together to apply the Theory U to their work in HIV/AIDs in the greater Washington Metro area organized by Margaret O'Bryon of the Consumer Health Foundation and Linda Howard of the Summit Foundation. And so I found myself in the fourth meeting of this amazing group, known as the Tuesday group because the first several meetings were on Tuesdays, with 13 HIV/AIDS activists facilitated by Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaueffer.
I was eager to write about the Tuesday Group as soon as the retreat ended but instead even though I am not much of a TV watcher (really!), I found myself that evening watching The Matrix. I felt a bit guilty about this after having been part of what felt like such an important conversation until my friend, suggested that maybe it wasn’t a coincidence that this movie just happened to be the first thing I turned to, hmmm. I suddenly found myself describing the “Presencing” experience to her in great detail using The Matrix as a metaphor, and it worked! After all, The Matrix is about constructed reality and our willingness (and sometimes need) to believe in the stories we create to give meaning to our perceived reality.