Presencing & Strategic Insight

This research project is a deeply personal endeavour, it has no client per se, as it began and has continued in an entrepreneurial spirit. I have developed the scope and defined the boundaries, drawn on my personal experience and built relationships with people to further the research.

When I first came across Otto Scharmer’s work on Theory U [62] with the Presencing Institute in 2009, his framework and process for change management and leadership for addressing root causes resonated deeply. Several times I was fortunate enough to be involved in gatherings which used social processes designed on Scharmer’s Theory U approach, to guide a group to deep insights and instill personal motivation to act.

Whilst I have rarely seen this interior dimension explored in Design disciplines (other than to attempt to understand how creativity seemingly emerges from an individual), it is often recognised as important, and attended to accordingly in social and systems change circles.

“When moving into the state of presencing, perception begins to happen from a future possibility that depends on us to come into reality.”

Otto Scharmer, Theory U

My approach to presencing when I’m not in a group process, is to seek out an area of wild nature (such as a mature forest or mountain landscape), shortly after having been fully immersed in synthesis of systems sight research.

Once immersed by natural surrounds, I often do some form of meditation or mindfulness practice aimed at enabling stillness and openness. This approach is also used in Biomimicry (nature-inspired design) to awaken senses.

As I turn my attention back to my research and to the wisdom of natural phenomena like the structure of trees, the flow of rivers and the structure of spiderwebs, I am able to explore the research and my relationship to it, from this sense of future possibility.

Almost without fail, significant insights are generated for a project from this practice.

Key Insights

1. Knowledge sharing: Ants

When I was deep in observation of a column of ants, I noticed some which went off exploring, sometimes collecting something, and then returned to the column briefly touching heads with at least one other ant. This drew my attention to the need for a community of practice which is rooted in exploration, reflection and regular interactions with others to pass on knowledge.

2. Feedback mechanisms: Rivers

The insight about a lack of feedback mechanisms for groups was based on observing the flow of a river - there is often no feedback for people engaged in activities upstream, as the water flows in a single direction.

3. Practice for Strategic Insight

Personally, I find my greatest strategic insight comes from the mix of synthesis activities as described in this section, and this time immersed in nature, in a state of presencing. Deriving strategic insights from a mix of research immersion, and natural forms has been an ongoing pursuit for me since speaking to an evolutionary biologist, Elizabet Sahtouris.

“No business has ever faced a problem that a rainforest hasn’t already solved. We need to spend more time learning from 3.6 billion years of R&D.”

Elizabet Sahtouris