Governance: From Competition to ABC (Awareness-based Collective Action)


Today’s post is written by Otto Schamer. His new book, “The Essentials of Theory U” (March, 2018), is an inspiring pocket guide that focuses on three essential components: the core principles, the key movements that make the process of Theory U, and the practical applications that transform our economy from ego to eco.

Dr. Schamer offers an excerpt from his book:

Historically, the 1.0 mechanism was hierarchy and centralization; the 2.0 mechanism came with the rise of markets and competition; and the 3.0 mechanism took the form of negotiation among organized stakeholder groups.

The most important and least understood institutional innovation today concerns the creation of a 4.0 coordination mechanism that is based on making the system sense and see itself: awareness- based collective action (ABC)—that is, acting from seeing the whole. Today we see the first examples of this mechanism in governance being adopted at the local level. In many cities and local communities, stakeholders are collaborating to rebuild the environmental, social, political, and cultural commons. But what is missing is an understanding of how this collaboration across boundaries can be aggregated and extended to larger systems— regions, countries, and continents.

4.0 Lab

In the summer of 2017 I visited the family farm near Hamburg where I grew up. (It is, by the way, no longer just a family farm, as we turned the ownership over to a foundation committed to bridging the three divides.) The purpose of my visit was to attend a meeting of founders and CEOs of green brands in Europe and Asia. Many of the major green pioneers and innovators sat in the meeting circle. It was an eye-opening conversation that taught me many things about the evolution of the food sector.

Looking into that circle, it was also clear to me that what made those leaders (and their companies) so successful in the 3.0 world will not help them succeed in the emerging 4.0 environment. And all of them knew that.

Seeing that, I explored an idea with the group. I proposed setting up a global innovation lab that would bring together pioneers and leading innovators from all four of the systems I just described—food, finance, health, and learning—to focus on co- creating a cross-sector 4.0 innovation lab.

In broad outline, the “4.0 Lab” would begin with regional labs in one or multiple geographies. Each regional lab would start with an agenda-setting workshop in which the key innovators and institutional partners would connect, get to know each other, and co-initiate the agenda and set the regional focus of each lab. The Presencing Institute would support these labs with methods and tools, as well as with our online-to-offine u.lab platform, and share the results via the joint multimedia platform on the new economy that we jointly curate with HuffPost.

Even though this idea came up only toward the end of the meeting, three or four of the founders in the circle instantly said “I’m in”—even without knowing exactly what they are in for. Nor of course do I. But I do believe that these kinds of cross-sectoral initiatives are needed now more than ever—in many places, regions, and geographies—because no one can create 4.0 platforms and eco-systems alone.


More about Otto Scharmer
Otto Scharmer is a Senior Lecturer at MIT and co-founder of the Presencing Institute. He chairs the MIT IDEAS program for cross-sector innovation that helps leaders from business, government, and civil society to innovate at the level of the whole system. He is the author of Theory U (translated into 20 languages) and co-author of Leading from the Emerging Future, which outlines eight acupuncture points of transforming capitalism. His latest book, The Essentials of Theory U: Core Principles and Applicationsilluminates the blind spot in leadership today and offers hands-on methods to help change makers overcome it through the process, principles, and practices of Theory U.


In 2015, he co-founded the MITx u.lab, a massive open online course for leading profound change that has since activated a global eco-system of societal and personal renewal involving more than 100,000 users from 185 countries. With his colleagues, he has delivered award-winning leadership development programs for corporate clients and co-facilitated innovation labs on reinventing education, health, business, government, and well-being.


New Role? A 30-60-90 Day Plan For Leaders

30 60 90 day

Leaders new to a team have the unenviable task of getting results, building trust and establishing credibility.  All the while they are learning their new role, and possibly even a new company.

For some leaders, doing one or the other is attainable, but doing all simultaneously can be a daunting task. It can be a delicate balance at times, and giving attention to everything at once can be a bit overwhelming.

Whether the leader is brand new to leadership, or new to their team, or is a seasoned leader in a new company, the ability to quickly establish change can make or break the leader as well as their teams, and possibly the organization.

I have realized over the years that the most effective way for a leader to create results and build culture is to adopt a rolling focus, 30-60-90 day game plan. Here it is in simplified form:


During this time you should make every effort to connect with as many people in your company as you can. At the same time, immerse yourself into the company culture: values, mission, goals, and current (if any) strategic plans. You want to find out who your people are, what strengths they bring to the team, and how aligned they are with the company culture. At the same time, you will be promoting the culture and re-establishing everyone’s belief in the organization and where it’s headed. Getting everyone connected to yourself, and more importantly to the greater vision and mission is the primary objective in the first 30 days.


As you are laying the foundation of culture among your people, you’ll be seeing how things operate and looking for ways to execute flawlessly. Brands are built internally first, by insuring the business model and daily operations support the culture and effectively serve your clients and customers. Take this time to really focus on training, procedural simplification, process improvement, and other efficiencies that will make your brand more consistent and reliable. The best marketing campaign for any company is wasted money if the service cannot be relied upon.


Now is the time to plan marketing, strategic growth and revenue opportunities. By this time you have started a trajectory that will enable you to capitalize on the work done thus far. Now you can confidently say your products are better than the competition because of the attention to quality. You can promote best-in-class service because your people are engaged. And you can find new methods to increase top-line revenue and control your costs that will allow the organization to fund new initiatives, hire more people, and impact more customers.

These 30-day increments are designed to make the most of the foundation needs of the organization before moving on to the next phases. That doesn’t mean in the first 30 days you won’t need to worry about operations or profit & loss (these are daily focuses from the first day). But you’ll need to make the concerted effort to enhance the culture, then the brand, then the growth that will become the springboard for change and results. And through this 30/60/90 day cycle, you’ll see results in your metrics at the end of each month that will show how effective this approach can be.

Many new leaders have a 3-month, 6-month, and first-year game plan to create impact in their new role. But in our faster world, you’ll need to set up a way to hit the foundational touch-points both quickly and solidly. Set the ripple effect from Day 1 that allows culture and people to permeate operations and ripples through sustained results and future growth for your organization.

(I first featured this post on Lead Change Group in April 2016)

(image: various)

How To Make Change After The Conference


We’ve all seen and been a part of this: We come back from a workshop, conference, strategic planning session or other great event, excited to make these great changes. Great new ideas, lots of energy, and a broader vision has been instilled and you’re ready to effect change.

Fast forward just a few months later; the company has not been effected by those game-changing ideas, and any semblance of the workshop or conference’s impact is gone.

The same can be said for many of the books written, mastermind session hosted, or webinars attended. All loaded with great wisdom and sure to move the needle, these mediums for change seldom move the needle in an organization.

So much money is spent on conferences, travel, bookings, leadership and strategic development sessions and outside consultants only to see it get wasted because nothing lasting ever came out of those promising sessions. While, yes, some of what is put out there is fluff with no real depth, there is much more great content and resources out there that has true potential to make a difference if the right variables were in play.

So, what happened, and how can lasting impact be made?

First let’s look at some of the reasons why change did not occur:

  • Action plans were not made – many people fail to plan for what to do after. They just board the plane home and forget what they learned as they focus on what awaits for them back at work
  • Upper management saw the conference as an attitude adjustment for the employee – a lot of times managers send staff to events as a way to train or change the employee, without wanting to change themselves
  • The workshop was just for show – some companies have been know to be part of these events just by attending but fail to show they align with these initiatives
  • The attendees has a poor attitude about attending – a lot of individuals look at these events as drudgery, or as a mini-vacation from work, without any plan to improve or learn
  • Leadership is not aligned with any changes from such events – upper management never intended to change anything they do and would just rather stay their course of action
  • The one or few people who attend aren’t allowed much influence in subsequent changes – they come back with great ideas and are marginalized or squelched by their boss when they arrive and not allowed to implement any changes
  • Leadership minimized and wrote off what any impact would be – by sticking to their narrow vision and not seeing what new ideas or trends are out there, these types of leaders truncate any major impact these conferences or sessions can make for their company and customers

So if you want to get the best return for you investment form any book, webinar, conference, or workshop, here are the best ways to effect lasting change:

  • Get as many people attending as possible – does this cost more? Yes. But getting more people on board increases alignment, builds broader collaboration and generates more buzz and follow through to make a major impact
  • Have a team action plan session – have the people who attend make an action plan on what was learned no less than a week form the end of the event. if possible, make it within 48 hours while the ideas and energy are still fresh
  • Set goals and determine that the company will benefit from these ideas – make a hard goal plan that the organization will see these changes through towards improving operations, customer service, sales, etc. A goal will ensure the company adopts these changes and doesn’t forsake them
  • Set incremental milestones to make sure actions steps are on track – refer to the conference material after 30, 60, 90 days to ensure the momentum stays on track.  Nothing derails planned change like time; keep refreshing the ideas and energy at no more than 30 day periods.
  • Take the key points and find the best application for them in our business culture and model – it’s easy to tell yourself that some, or many, ideas won’t apply to your business. The best companies find a way to make these work for them and leverage a differentiation from them
  • Go with an attitude of learning and professionalism – many people who attend these events take them as a big bash and spend far too much time at the bar and instead of finding ways to improve themselves and their company

At the end of it all, it’s up to you as a leader to adopt ideas into lasting change. Don’t waste your time and money, and that of your employees, or the speaker’s time, by just attending and doing nothing to improve your company or your customer’s experience.

(image: wikimedia commons)

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