Accessing the Blind Spot: The U Process as Seen Through the Lens of Developmental Action Inquiry

Accessing the Blind Spot: The U Process as Seen Through the Lens of Developmental Action Inquiry

Aliki Nicolaides (University of Georgia, USA) and David McCallum (Le Moyne College, USA)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4793-0.ch004
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Abstract

The complexity of our current social, environmental, and economic realities requires conceptual frameworks that help us chart transformative pathways of collective action. Otto Scharmer’s Theory U is one such framework, offering a profound synthesis of relevant theories and practices related to systems thinking, organizational learning, and leadership. Theory U is also a rich, multi-layered framework that is challenging to apply in action due to its conceptual complexity and because of the demands it makes of both facilitators and participants. As a means of facilitating the skillful use of this theory and its practices, the authors find it helpful to examine and explore Theory U through the lens of a distinct, yet related framework: Collaborative Developmental Action Inquiry (Torbert, 2003, 2004). CDAI is a methodology based on action science that integrates adult development theory, first, second, and third person inquiry, and transforming action.
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Exploring First, Second, And Third Person Research: Single, Double, And Triple Loop Learning, And Knowledge Generation

Senge and Scharmer (in Reason & Bradbury, 2001) describe how the action research model used as a basis for Theory U employs a third-person approach to organizing that gives explicit attention to first, second, and third-person research and practice. In other words, Theory U combines subjective, inter-subjective, and objective dimensions in framing challenges, examining relevant data, exploring collective needs and intentions, and prototyping creative pathways for change, or the realization of shared vision. Scharmer’s (2007) contribution in Theory U is the turn from third-person organizing typical of prior, past-oriented research to a new form of first, second, and third-person organizing that enacts the “highest potential future” (p. 52). In this section of our chapter, we use CDAI to explore both the interweaving of first, second, and third- person research, and the three loops of learning and knowledge generation, as they are involved in Scharmer’s U-Process. In discussing these three levels of engagement, we explore how research, learning, and action are simultaneously distinct and critically interconnected through the U process.

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