I recently stumbled upon a great mooc( massive open online course) on edx.org called U.Lab Transforming Business Society and Self taught by MIT professor Otto Scharmer. The course starts on Jan 7
th. If you are not familiar with edx it is basically a site where you can get free access to online courses taught by professors in the top of their field. It is great way to learn anything you are interested in.
U.Lab is about developing different frameworks to solve the worlds new challenging problems by reflecting not only on ourselves but on society and businesses as a whole. It assumes that some of the current models are broken and the way we make business decisions are faulty. The methodology aims to create new frameworks and a better understanding of real world problems by integrating science, consciousness, and profound social change methodologies. The premise is that we need to make decision from a place in ourselves that we are usually unaware of or blinded to. I see this inability to see where we operate from as not understanding ourselves and taking the time to look at who we really are. It is very reassuring to see people in MIT recognize the importance of mediation and contemplation to make profound impact in the business world. We need a different perspective to flip the current model on its head and develop a new framework. Just look at Uber and how it leveraged cell phone technology to revolutionize the way we travel. It is this type of mind shift and radical way of thinking to create profitable businesses that help society.
What really got me interested in his work was the quote from Bill O’Brien, the late CEO of Hanover Insurance. “The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener” It doesn’t just matter what we do or how we do it but it also matters where does this action come from within ourselves. It is really a person’s mindset and self awareness of themselves that they are able to develop innovative ideas to solve problems using a new framework.
They coin the term presencing as the ability to create new frameworks to solve problems by reconnecting with ourselves and understand what we want to bring about in the future . I akin this to mindfulness and being totally immersed in the present and what is actually going on around you,customers, and society. When you are fully immersed in the present moment you are able to anticipate what is trying to emerge from the situation. When we are mindful and observant we look at the situation as it is, without the lens of our judgment to fog our understanding. Most businesses are not able to adapt to change and they make decisions not based on reality but on what they learned from the past and models that they are familiar with.
The above picture shows their process of presencing to solve existing and emerging problems. It demonstrates how your thinking and view of the problem changes when you start to internalize and reflect on the problem. The upside down U shows the old model of creating solutions with outcomes that are damaging to society. It shows how disconnected problem solving is from reality and how it will not improve the future of society.
They also say there has to be a shift in the way we do business from ego centric to an eco centric. It is applying mindfulness to be aware of yourself to organizations, systems and businesses. So if the organization is reflecting on itself and thinking from a whole rather than thinking from individual silos they will be able to make better decisions. It also makes businesses aware of how they are actually operating by observing themselves from a 3
rdperson point of view. This also aligns with meditation practice because you realize that we are connected in humanity and we need to also understand how our actions affect others.
A daily meditation practice gives us the time to really reflect with ourselves and contemplate our inner sense of knowing. In the class they are providing different mindful meditation techniques to help you shift the inner place that you operate from. When we have more awareness of ourselves it is represented in our thoughts and actions and what we create in the world.
I am excited to start the course and learn more about how meditation and cultivating a stronger sense of self can improve businesses and solve some of the world’s problems. If you are interested in learning more about this class you can sign up free at https://www.edx.org/course/u-lab-transforming-business-society-self-mitx-15-s23x. Before the course starts, there is an excerpt of Otto’s book on the site on his theories and how we go about changing the framework to solve business challenges. Let me know if you are planning to take the course and what your thoughts are on this new way of creating sustainable businesses.