The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic - Peter Drucker

U Lab Reflections at the turn of the U

U Lab Reflections

I'm undertaking the U Lab programme sponsored by Scottish Government. Angie Meffan-Main who is coordinating the programme invited me to write a blog post on the experience so far.  Here's my reflections....

Half-way through the U Lab programme it's too early to report on outcomes. We're currently sitting at the bottom of the U.

Instead I reflect on the origins of The Melting Pot Hub in Edinburgh and some of the questions that are arising for me as Host. Maybe these questions will resonate with others.

Hubs are a feature of the U Lab programme and bring the learning alive. They're self organised and connect people by virtue of special interest or locality.  

Since the independence referendum and probably long before, people in Scotland, whatever their political affiliation, seemed to be searching for something different. It was nebulous but palpable. 

If change is so 'wanted', does this mean that the journey to the 'something different' will be easier? Less fraught? 

When the conditions are right and the political will is there, will change happen more fluidly? 

These are some of the questions that have emerged for me.

The Roots of What's Gone Before Are Still Growing

Otto Scharmer describes the dance between the security of the familiar and fear of the unknown as the complex interplay of 'Presencing' and 'Absencing'.

Dayna Cunningham's contributions as a guest speaker during week 3 of U Lab were particularly powerful. Using a tree metaphor to describe her experience of campaigning against racism, she reflected that you can chop down the tree but the roots continue growing unseen for years to come.  

Liken the roots to the behaviours that support the status quo and you get a sense of why planned change can be problematic. The roots of what's gone before are still there to trip you up.

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U Lab Scotland - Conversations and Catching the Waves

big wave

 Know that feeling of being with kindred spirits? That's how I felt yesterday.

We were in Saint Paul’s and St George's Episcopal church in Edinburgh. A magnificent venue for the first of a series of 'U Lab Scotland' preparatory events. Over 200 people attended. Some had to take seats in the balcony. Such was the interest in this event. 

U Lab is based on Theory U, an approach to change that aims to unleash the collective energy and intelligence in a group. The process encourages participants to view complex issues through a different lens and observe deeply.  After a period of deep reflection solutions emerge through a process of 'prototyping' and testing. Otto Scharmer and colleagues from MIT have been developing the approach over many years with a growing excitement worldwide.  

Change as an Emergent Property

I've had an interest in change as an 'emergent property' for a number of years. I took an 'intensive' programme similarly called 'Change Lab' run by Adam Kahane in Utrecht a few years back. The programme, based on action enquiry, followed the U process and it was truly inspiring. I still draw on the learning in my current work in helping people and organisations navigate change.

Hearing the principles of U Lab being introduced by Scottish Government officials created a frisson of excitement inside me, and I suspect in many others. It was a defining moment. And perhaps another indication of the groundswell in Scotland of people searching for something different.

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Recent Comments
Guest — Lorna Jackson
I totally agree it was awe inspiring being in the same space and conversation with brave public servants,social enterprisers (is t... Read More
Thursday, 04 June 2015 07:11
Guest — Eileen Moir
Lovely sentiments Lorna, thank you for your comments. Yes, so much good will and as I say, kindred spirits. Carpe Diem!
Thursday, 04 June 2015 07:55
Guest — Jenny Ure
Is there a link to U_Lab Scotland?
Thursday, 04 June 2015 11:17
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Change and the things that sustain us

Over eight years on and he still speaks about it. How he sat with his wife as she took her last breaths. Their two sons had joined them at the hospital after the urgent phone calls. Two daughters lived too far away. They wouldn't have got there in time.

He reflects on how, when both sons arrived at the hospital, he said in a hushed tone to his wife "that's them both here now, pet". She had been drifting in a semi-coma, unresponsive, for some hours but he describes how she squeezed his hand seconds before slipping away. He's convinced it was her way of saying good bye.

Who could argue with him? Who would want to? It was the final instalment in the story of their lives. The most poignant moment in fifty-five years of marriage.

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