Movements Meet

This column is an expanded version of a comment I posted on Facebook to further the conversation started by Otto Scharmer’s blog in Huffington Post MITx u.lab: Education As Activating Social Fields.

Our emerging planetary reality of deepening and intertwining global crises could take us into a descent of decades, if not centuries of chaos and human suffering at an unprecedented scale, or it can enable us ascend to a better life for all. Now, just before reaching the point of no return in that descent, an ecosystem of movements for reinventing all our social systems from how we organize work, commerce, and education, to healthcare, governance, and money, is finally emerging… just in time.

That is the context in which the Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) – U.lab: Transforming Business, Society and Self and its co-creative participants provide an example of history in the making. Not only because it is demonstrating a 21st century reinvention of education but because it is also catalysing a process of reinventing society itself for the 21st century. The shift from the class size of 50 attending Scharmer’s MIT course to the 50,000 registered participants on the MOOC is indeed impressive. However it’s safe to say we’re only at the beginning of something even more significant than that:

Extending beyond the U.lab hubs, a whole ecosystem of movements has emerged that are focusing on the various acupuncture points for the healing/wholing of our world. Many of the generative dialogues that the U.labs have opened will keep rolling, new prototypes will sprout up and the U.Lab movement will continue gaining momentum, as it creates an adequate infrastructure to support it.

goldfishThis is really good news because, as Scharmer & Kaufer point to in their book on Leading from the Emerging Future, “the next revolution will require a multi-point strategy…” This is necessary because unlike revolutions that are merely political, a social revolution that transitions us from one civilization to the next (in the course of a few generations) can succeed only by the combined impact of movements that reinvent all of society’s institutions which have become dysfunctional. That revolution is already in our midst, unfolding before our eyes. It’s just that it’s currently difficult to perceive as we’re like the fish not seeing the water we’re swimming in.

In this post, I’ll focus on just one of those movements. The one with which my life has been intertwining over the last two years: the movement of reinventing organizations, inspired by Frederic Laloux’s research on next-stage organizations, and its numerous companion movements. (See a preliminary map of the “reinventing” ecosystem, published originally in Enlivening Edge, here.)

Independently from, but analogous with what is happening with the U.labs, the Reinventing Organizations movement is also gaining momentum. Recent months have seen a multiplication of meet-ups around the world, reading groups inside companies, and online communities dedicated to this work. Laloux’s book, now reborn and enhanced as an open source wiki , attracts thousands of visitors every month. The original book has already been translated and published in Danish, Dutch, French, German and Polish and will be published in a dozen other languages in 2016.

A major breakthrough that Laloux consistently observed in the organizations he studied is the aspect of self-management that builds people’s competence in collective governance. The latter is a core aspiration of the U.lab, movement. Self-management by Holacratic circles is unleashing what Otto Scharmer refers to as “the co-creative power of distributed communities of creation.”

But the exquisite resonances between the U.lab and “reinventing” movements don’t stop here. Where Scharmer advocates including “head + heart + hand,” Laloux upholds “wholeness” and the reinventers promote bringing “all of who you are to everything you do.”

While Scharmer has designated “purpose” as one of the enabling conditions for institutional inversion, Laloux has discovered a common breakthrough in the organizations he researched: they all have an evolutionary purpose. Yet another relevant connection: the processes associated with getting to the bottom of the U can also enable the discovery of an organization’s evolutionary purpose. Andy Paice referred to that connection in his blog.

It’s worth noting that that Scharmer sees Theory U as an exploration of “the deeper dynamics of social systems from the view point of an evolving human consciousness” (at 2:42) in this MIT Alchemist video, and the subtitle of Frederic’s book points to the very same phenomenon: “A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness.” We’re witnessing the awakening of the social body from its millennia-long slumber, stretching its limbs and welcoming the dawn of a new day. The journey of personal, institutional and planetary inversion and the journey of reinventing organizations, ourselves, and social systems, differ in their forms and approaches, but are the same in essence.

There is an upcoming opportunity for exploring the confluence of the fledgling U.lab and Reinventing Organizations movements. It will be a playground where their participants can sense into the synergistic benefits of each other’s gifts to the whole. This will be at the Integral European Conference (May 4-8, 2016, at the Lake Balaton in Hungary) where there will be a track dedicated to “next-stage organizations,” curated by Enlivening Edge. The call to submit proposals for presentations, workshops, or posters, is open until January 31st. More information can be found here.

If you read and felt inspired by Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations, AND participated in one of the U.labs, your contribution to this unfolding conversation would be invaluable. Please share any reflections you might have in the comments below.

George in GreenwhichGeorge Pór is an evolutionary thinker and a strategic learning partner to visionary leaders in business, government, and civil society. He is the originator of Enlivening Edge, and has been publishing the Blog of Collective Intelligence since 2003. A select list of his articles and book chapters on the fields of collective intelligence, organizational and social renewal can be found here.  More about George’s work on the enlivening edge of planetary transformation is here.



  1. Thanks for contributing this article George!

    While prospects of transforming institutional landscapes poses itself as a heady undertaking, the efforts of those like Otto Scharmer and Frederic Laloux certainly lend encouragement to those like ourselves, otherwise contemplating an unwieldy challenge. In a comparable respect though too, I’d also nominate Fritjof Capra and Ugo Mattei’s recently published, “The Ecology of Law” as being an especially helpful read for better understanding the historical development of Western civil societies.

    Within the framework Capra and Mattei so masterfully delineate, the shift of paradigm from a “mechanistic” (or “ego-system”, as Scharmer terms it) approach to one that’s “ecological” in respect to nature and human experience, poses itself as an especially practical evolutionary objective. Consequently, but from my vantage point, perhaps the key distinction between these two respective systems is that one tends to entail “extraction” while the other is “generative”. Likewise, the first of these strives to convert “the commons” to “capital” while the second aims at converting “capital” back to “the commons”.

    Best wishes . . .

    1. Thanks Brian for bringing in the “capital-back-to-the-commons” perspective.

      Laloux seems to be missing that. Scharmer does touch on it his “Leading from the Emerging Future” book. On the other hand, Scharmer is very light on “self-management”.

      I don’t expect the two thought leaders giving much attention to what they are missing because their gifts to the world lie on the trails that they are blazing respectively. It would be an awesome opportunity for organizational practitioners to create approaches to transformational work on the ground, which would would foster transition to a commons-based mode of production and self-organization.

      Your take? Will you talk about this at if your poposal gets accepted?

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