When work becomes passion and passion becomes reality / Interview Jacob Bundsgaard, mayor of Aarhus & alderman Marc pera Christensen / Go Green Aarhus 2017 / Theory U / The Yes! Municipality / Godsbanen Trailerpark / Furture Practice- Knowledge & Experiments / Entrepreneurial Portraits /City of ceres : How to build a City / Hope is Green / Aarhus University: Student Incubator / Let's Go Co-Create / Steps toward a Sustainable Future / Green Entrepreneurial portraits / Sustainable Footprint / Eco System /The Thornico Building / Spot a Wealthy Investor
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THEORY U : STOP DOWNLOADING AND START LISTENING
The current world crises demands us to act differently and seek new perspectives and solutions. The world calls us to wake up from habits and repetitions. But how to change?
First of all, forget everything about the perfect business model! It’s far more important to look inside yourself to find out what you are good at and listen to what the world needs. It’s about having heart. This is made clear by Steen Hildebrandt and Lotte Darsø, who have followed and worked with leadership theorist Otto Scharmer’s transformational change and innovation theory. Aarhus Affairs has met up with the two to draw on their wisdom of how to become an entrepreneur. It is challenging matter as Theory U should be lived rather than read.
U-MODEL OF CHANCE
Theory U has received great recognition around the world and has provided hope for dealing with the great crises that the planet faces. But what is Theory U all about and how can the theory help current and future entrepreneurs? It is the German leadership researcher, Otto Scharmer, who has developed the transformational change and innovation model. The theory is named after the model, which is shaped like a “U”. The model offers support for doing things radically differently and is a model that cannot simply be read but must be lived and performed. It is a challenging task but it pays off, assures Lotte Darsø, who is a lecturer at The Pedagogical University of Denmark (DPU) and author of “Innovationspædagogik – Kunsten at fremelske innovationskompetence” [Innovations pedagogy – the art of fostering innovation competencies].
CONNECT INNER FOCUS WITH OUTER NEEDS
According to Darsø, one must work with oneself internally to find out what one is good at but also listen externally to what the world needs. “You must know what you are good at, even if it is just one small thing, and be able to use that skill in a way that makes a difference in the world. It is not enough to spot something temporary that you can make some quick money off”, she adds smiling. Theory U is a model that challenges us to create a connection between the inner and the outer, or as Darsø says, “you should not develop the perfect business plan but rather work with your interests, passions and unique talent towards the greater goal of making the world a better place”. Professor Steen Hildebrandt doubts that working towards finding your unique talents is included in any entrepreneurial course. One should dare to embark on an inner journey to find meaning. Meaning can be found by combining one’s individual talents with what the world needs.
THEORY U AND THE MANY CRISES
Theory U focuses its attention on the world’s many crises including the economic, health and environmental. For many, this is the most challenging thing about the theory; that we cannot solve crises with quick fixes and actions but instead have to stop and think. Stop completely. Hildebrandt elaborates with reference to Albert Einstein, “to create holistic sustainable solutions for both our inner and outer crises , we must understand that we can´t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”. We must therefore identify the deeply ingrained habits and patterns that control our decisionmaking. Otto Scharmer calls this STOP DOWNLOADING.
We must stop downloading the same habits and ad hoc solutions we usually do. Lotte Darsø adds, “The Chinese symbol for crisis contains both crisis and opportunity so solutions must originate from identifying the opportunities”. For this reason we must train our ability to stop and rest during crises or transitions in order to make good choices, whether it is a choice of new career or a larger societal decision. Steen Hildebrandt leans forward in his chair and says that he is on the cusp of finishing a new book called “Krise og mulighed – På Kanten af industrisamfundet” [Crisis and opportunity – on the edge of the industrial society]. He believes that we do not catch sight of opportunities during a crisis because our systems are stuck in certain ways of thinking or paradigms, where solutions are focused solely on economic growth using a warlike rhetoric. Growth and competition are the answer to everything and no one questions these presumptions. Hildebrandt offers an example of this rhetoric, the Minister for Education, Christine Antorini, who argues that children should receive English lessons from first grade so that they can compete with the Chinese. “Maybe we should cooperate with the Chinese instead?” he suggests with a friendly smile. He continues, “A replacement for the growth paradigm could be a more holistic concept like sustainability. Sustainability on both a personal and societal level”.
YOUR HEART NEEDS TO BE IN IT
Our interview is taking place in Steen Hildebrandt’s inspiring workspace where bookshelves cover the walls from floor to ceiling and a wellstocked desk testifies to a flurry of activity. In the corner of the office stands a small smiling Buddha. Now we’re at it – a transformational change and leadership theory that has heart – isn’t that a little bit Buddhist? Steen Hildebrandt hears this same question from time to time. He wonders why this is a problem. Buddhism is an ancient philosophy and belief system that encourages looking inwards to find depth and answers. Steen Hildebrandt says, “The most provocative thing about Theory U is that we have to look inwards to find sustainable solutions, which we are not trained to do. The only thing that young people are required to do is earn more money and buy more things. This is not tenable for a society or planet in crisis or even for the young people themselves who, according to studies, are feeling more and more distressed”. We need to have our heart with us in our decisions and this requires training. Our collective wisdom is found in our hearts, not in our heads. Happiness and meaning is not something that you can calculate with your brain but can be felt in your heart, Lotte Darsø and Steen Hildebrandt both point out. To move on from the rational analytical is to move into the realms of the uncertain, which is where happiness and meaning can be found. Theory U describes this process.
Otto Scharmer writes about being able to listen empathetically, which Lotte Darsø also sees as an important skill to train. “Scientific studies show that you can measure the heart’s radiation several metres away. This is something that we have all felt in certain situations when you walk into a room and can immediately feel whether the energy and company is good or bad”. Darsø’s research shows that one of the most important elements of innovation competency is being able to work together and listen empathetically to each other. She points out firmly, “collaboration must be trained – ideally already during primary school. But in order for group work to succeed, you need to have clear instructions and good tools to work with”.
LEARNING FROM THE EMERGING FUTURE
Once we have stopped downloading our standard patterns of behaviour, identified unconstructive habits and dedicated ourselves to our hearts and passions, we find ourselves in a situation where the solutions of the past no longer work. And where the solutions of the future have not yet been formed. Theory U is about learning from the emerging future, which Steen Hildebrandt describes as leaning towards the future. We must dare to stand on the bridge between the past and the present without fleeing to one side or the other. These solutions will rely on whether we have the capacity to stand in existential transitions and listen inwards and outwards. Life always exists in the transitions between one now and the next now; nothing is stationary and we must dare to accept this.
MOVING TOWARDS PERFORMING WITH PROTOTYPING
Fail fast to succeed sooner. Generate prototypes in order to get feedback is an important step in Theory U. We are taught and raised to pass exams where everything has to be perfect. Young entrepreneurs are told that they need to have the perfect business plan. Lotte Darsø thinks that this is completely wrong; “it is much more important to do things in order to get feedback”. Theory U calls this prototyping, which means that you have to create models of your ideas or business plans – these models need not be fully-developed or perfect as this enables you to get feedback earlier on in the process. This feedback can come from within yourself or from external advisors. This means that you have to try out your ideas and plans before they are fully formed. Get them developed and made better even though it can be rather discomforting to do this so early on in the process. Knowledge can be passed on but wisdom cannot. Wisdom must be gained by making your own experiences and getting feedback. Or as Lotte Darsø puts it, “Theory U can’t just be read but must be worked with and lived”.
It is difficult to learn from the emerging future insists Lotte Darsø. For her it is about learning to listen to what life calls you to do. Lotte Darsø thinks that we are often so full of ourselves that we cannot see past ourselves. We must leave our egos behind to be open to the new things that are on their way. She explains vividly that new roads open up when one dares to venture into unchartered territory. Steen Hildebrandt believes that entrepreneurs should be particularly focused on stopping the tendency to get caught up in the concepts, problems and patterns of the past. Hildebrandt compares the example of serfdom, which was abolished around the 1800, to the way that we are bound to our parents, schools and society and we must break free. He believes that entrepreneurs must start with a kind of disrespect for the lessons taught in books. Entrepreneurs often get stuck in the mantra that you should make plans, take action and produce things faster but Hildebrandt challenges this mantra by saying that we should stop and see what the future brings.
COOPERATION AND CROSSDISCIPLINARY COLLABORATION
Otto Scharmer calls Theory U a social technology that focuses on trying to cooperate and make connections for the greater good. Our present inner and outer crises could be solved by working across disciplines. The educational system is based on oldfashioned industrial society thinking where people must complete an education in order to enter the labour market. The labour market now no longer resembles the industrial society but educations are still stuck in the same ways of thinking. We need educations that work with a more holistic perspective – a more sustainable perspective for individuals, society and the planet. Both Lotte Darsø and Steen Hildebrandt see a need for working across the conventional academic boundaries, which is also true for the entrepreneur. You should be able to use your interests and individual talents in collaboration with others.
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