All On Board Systems Change! The “Theory U” STL is Now Departing

“In Co-Iniciating, listening is the key:

Listening to your own intention or to what life calls you to do (listening to oneself).

Listening to your core partners in the field (listening to others).

Listening to what you are called to do now (listening to what emerges).”

Otto Scharmer. Essentials of Theory U.

Co-initiating (1)

“Activating the Field” is another key aspect of any Theory U program because it allows the building of a high-impact container for the group. To do that effectively, the facilitators need sufficient space to create an emotional and inspirational atmosphere for the learning process of the group.

The Core Team

The core team members in charge of this process are Marietta Perroni, Maria Antonieta Angarita and myself (Helio Borges), from Proyecto Hikola, and Prof Nancy Gutierrez, from UNIMET, who was a member of our second u.lab cohort in 2018. This is evidence that the seeds, which we have sown since 2018, are bearing fruits.

The Venue and the Participants

Today the key players convened by Proyecto Hikola, Universidad Metropolitana (UNIMET), and the Caracas U.lab Hub, Co-Initiated (1) the Presencing Institute´s Societal Transformation Lab 2020 (u.lab 2X). More than 20 changemakers, belonging to the Educational, Corporate, and ONG sectors, are part of our extended team now.

Listening to “The Field”

If you are a practitioner of Theory U, you learn to read the signals coming from The Field. We met at the Human Values room, located within the library of the Metropolitan University in Caracas (UNIMET). Initially, we were meeting in the Blackboard room. Yet, at the last moment, they changed the meeting place.

This time, the signal was loud and clear — we were to facilitate a Societal Transformation Lab centered in Human Values. What can be better than that?

Setting the Intention

Every time we facilitate u.lab we feel inspired. The participants notice this. This time, we went through a series of activities directed by Maria Antonieta. First, the participants introduced themselves. Later, we explained the basic principles of Theory U. Afterwards, we went through a series of group activities to familiarize the participants with the four levels of listening.

Additionally, they also worked on their intention by answering the following questions:

What is my challenge, my goal, my intention to change? Personal, social, academic, economic, political, others?

Why is it important for me to reach this goal?

How will I get there?

What prevents me from achieving it, what do I need to let go?

What should I learn, what do I need to allow to achieve it?

Who are the partners who will help me to achieve it?

What could be the first steps?

The u.lab Resources

After the break, we had a moment of full presence, and we closed the session watching Otto’s videos about the “Four Levels of Listening”. Proyecto Híkola created a YouTube channel, U.Lab En Español, where we have uploaded the videos of the MITx course, u.lab. Leading From The Emerging Future. They have Spanish subtitles and are available to anyone who is interested in knowing more about Theory U or who wishes to watch the classes taught by Otto Scharmer, just as if they were at MIT.

In that video, Otto Scharmer gives a powerful lecture about Leading Trough Listening, using as an example the magnificent performances of Zubin Metha and Placido Domingo at the “Three Tenors Concert” at Caracalla, Italy. If any person doesn’t understand the concepts of Holding the Space, Building a Container and Leading From The Whole after watching Otto´s video, they won’t get them by any other means.

The Next Steps

The participants left with three assignments for the next two weeks: Daily record of Levels of Listening, Stakeholders Interview, and Empathy Walk.

We will meet again on the day of the first live session on Feb 20th. featuring Otto Scharmer.


(1) From Essentials of Theory U, by Otto Scharmer

Uncovering Shared Intention

The starting point of the process is to build a container for a core group that is going through the process together. This first stage lays the foundation for the later process and its impact. This first step of co-initiating focuses on uncovering common intention. Listening is the key:

  • Listening to your own intention or to what life calls you to do (listening to oneself).
  • Listening to your core partners in the field (listening to others).
  • Listening to what you are called to do now (listening to what emerges).


  • Listen to What Life Calls You to Do. The essence of the U process is to strengthen our ability to be present and consciously co-create. The U process of “Presencing” starts with the primacy of attention and intention: “Listen to what life calls you to do.” The U method is firmly grounded in process consultation as one of its principal parent disciplines.
  • Listen and Dialogue with Interesting Players on the Edges. The second domain of listening takes you out of your familiar world and to the edges and corners of the system. As you proceed on your mini-journey, let yourself be guided by the field. Focus on emerging opportunities. The most important helpers, partners, and guides often turn out to be different from what you expect; therefore your inner work is to stay open to suggestions.
  • Clarify the Intention and Core Questions. Do not rush the first step of clarifying the intention and core questions that guide the inquiry.
  • Convene a Diverse Core Group around a Shared Intention. Convene a constellation of players that need one another to take action and to move forward. The opposite of co-initiation is marketing — getting people to “buy-in” to your idea. So part of the art of convening these players is to loosen your own grip on the idea — without necessarily giving it up. You lead by painting a picture that is intentionally incomplete; you make a few strokes and you leave lots of blank space so that others can make a contribution.
  • Build the Container. And the quality of that shared intention largely depends on the quality of the container, the holding space that shapes and cultivates the web of relationships. The most important leverage point for building a high-impact container occurs right at the beginning, when you set the tone as you evoke and activate the field.



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Helio Borges

Helio Borges


Executive & Team Coach & Mentor. Cultural Transformation Change Agent & Consultant. Twitter: @hborgesg. Instagram: @heboga. FB: helio.borges.35. Uriji: @hborges