Don’t Get Up.

Suzanne St. John-Crane, ALF CEO
Classic XXV / Urbanism XXXIV

I treasure the opportunity to go through the class experience each year with our new Fellows. I can practice my “ALF skills” like mindfulness, the 4-player dialogue model and aikido approach to conflict resolution. (You can too through our ALF Refresh series coming up.) I’m also reminded of Theory U – a concept that at times is a struggle for me to employ. As a doer, I want to go straight from recognizing problem to solving problem. That assumes however that everyone else recognizes a problem and agrees with my solution. Not so.

Otto Scharmer who coined the concept of Theory U says: “We move down one side of the U (connecting us to the world that is outside of our institutional bubble) to the bottom of the U (connecting us to the world that emerges from within) and up the other side of the U (bringing forth the new into the world). On that journey, at the bottom of the U, lies an inner gate that requires us to drop everything that isn’t essential. This process of letting-go (of the old) and letting-come (the highest future possibility) establishes a subtle connection to a deeper source of knowing.”

I’m also reminded of the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Why then do we continue to bang our heads against the wall when tackling deep social issues? I would argue because of a lack of courage, a stifling power structure and the uncontrollable urge to jump to something that looks and smells like a solution.

Over the last several weeks, I’ve had an opportunity to witness several of our new ALF Affinity Group gatherings. Watching Senior Fellows listen deeply with a profound display of empathy and respect, while checking each other from jumping to solution before staying at the bottom of the U for a while, is like watching a master class in building community. Staying “in it” and fighting the urge to jump in and fix takes true faith, patience and courage. But it’s worth the wait.

So my message to us all, as we negotiate the big systems change opportunities in our collective worlds, is to not get up. Stay in your DIScomfort zone for a bit. What you find – and what you build – might surprise you.