Discussion forum for members of the Massachusetts Bay Organizational Development Learning Group

Friday, September 21, 2007

How we can reach a deeper field level as individuals, in organizations, as a society, and the global level?

For our September 19 program meeting on “Learning from the Future As It Emerges: On the Grammar of the Social Field” we fortunate to again have Otto Scharmer as our presenter. We will following this up with a program on "Presencing and Theory U" in Second Life.

Based on his great new work, Theory U, Otto explained, among other things, the four levels of “the field” (which Otto defines as “the total set of connections that are mutually dependent). These levels are applicable at the individual, group, institutional, and global level.

Level One involves operating by ourselves (“the old me level”). It is characterized by “downloading”: talking nice and telling people what they want to hear. At the institutional level, it means centralized “machine bureaucracy”. At the global level, it means hierarchy and central planning. This is where we spend most of our lives.

Level Two involves operating from “the current it-world”. It is characterized by debate: talking tough, opposing viewpoints. At the institutional and global levels, it means decentralization and market competition. We have pretty common experience of this level.

Level Three is operating at the current “you-world”. It involves empathetic listening and dialogue. At the macro level, it means networks; at the global level, mutual adjustment. OD practitioners often work at this level.

Level Four is operating at the highest possible future possibility that is ready to emergene. It is marked by collective creativity. At the higher levels, it means ecosystems and collective presence (seeing from the emerging Whole). Our experience with this level tends to be fleeting and aspirational.

We discussed how deep we have gone in personal and organizational levels. For my part I have had some brief level three experiences when using dialogue, but no experience at all of level four.

Accordingly we’ve made our Question of the Month one the favorite discussion items in our Deeper Inquiry Group: the overall theme: How can we help people, organizations, and societies reach a deeper level of discourse and understanding? Perhaps, too, members can give some examples of how they have able to reach and act in deeper levels of thought and action.