Friday, 22 May 2015

Theory U - Let's get innovating

Have you ever wondered why some people and organisations seem to be just so much more innovative than others are? Well Otto Scharmer seems to have found the answer. His approach (Theory U) is able to answer many different questions but today I am just going to be looking at this one area as it relates to leadership (rather than management).
Let’s start with you as a leader.

When was the last time that you were able to just sit down and think about a problem or challenge instead of just responding to it? Can you give a date for when you were previously able to think about a challenge without earlier experiences, other people’s ideas and agendas, history, time pressures pressing down on you and gently guiding you to a particular solution? When were you free to choose an idea without restrictions, by letting go of existing baggage in order to allow new ideas to get a chance to rise to the surface? If you are anything like most leaders, you will have extreme difficulty identifying when this last happened in your professional career.

It’s not your fault. This is what tends to happen when you are running an organisation in the competitive context of a 21st century environment BUT without that protected time and space and without guidance and facilitation don’t expect innovation to come knocking on your door anytime soon.

When under pressure we use time-honoured ways of getting things done and the consequence is that we get the same types of results. This is our weakness – the inner space from which we as leaders operate is crowded and noisy. Being aware of this blockage is critical to bringing into being the sorts of effective and significant changes that so many are looking for in their own organisations.  

Theory U is one of very few leadership models or methodologies that include the psychology of the leader as part of its approach. It’s akin to recognising that if you want to be a star athlete you don’t just work on your muscles, timing and physical skills you also need to deal with who you are mentally as a sports person.  

If you are interested in learning more – Otto Scharmer of MIT will be part of a team delivering the Presencing Foundation Programme for the first time in November in Oxford United Kingdom