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  • Maria Vandenburg

Co-Sensing: Sensing and Actualizing Our Highest Future Possibilities

Updated: Oct 21

So my U.Lab journey has now moved onto phase two of the U Process which is called "Sensing"


During this phase, we are invited to conduct a few different activities to tap into and sense our highest future possibilities.

Otto Scharmer and the team believe that we all have the ability to engage with two different streams of time, and the sensing phase is about using tools and techniques like the empathy walk, stakeholder interviews, learning journeys as well as our coaching circles to do just that.


Otto talks about the most important skill within all of these is a focus on deep listening, as he says "Shifting the inner place from which we are attending." I can personally attest to this, my levels of listening have grown over the last few years and because of that, so has my personal experience as I have been open and truly listening to what is going on around me.

But first, what are they?

Activities to move beyond downloading (the patterns of the past) to connect with the emergent reality around us. Otto talks about four different levels of conversations we can go through. The highest being one where we are permanently changed by our level of engagement because we have opened up to a generative field that lives around us. The specific tools provided to reach this state are:

Empathy Walk: Where one intentionally spends time with someone with a different world view than our own, has a deep and generative conversation with our heart open to see if we can reach an understanding of the other's perspective.


Stakeholder Interview: An interview process where you reverse the stakes and interview your stakeholders on what they need from you in order to be successful. It's designed to allow you to see the world from your stakeholder's point of view. As I move into the launch of We Are Just Us and as I gear up to start my next job, this is a tool that I have been and continue to plan on implementing. An example of the questions the Presencing Institute gives us to ask are:

🌟 What is it that you are trying to create and what is my contribution towards it (i.e. what do you need me for?)

🌟 What are the criteria that you are using that help you to assess whether or not my contribution to your work has been successful?

🌟 If I could change two things in my area of responsibility in the next six months, what two things would be most beneficial to you?

🌟 What were some of the systemic barriers and issues that may have prevented people earlier in my role from collaborating with you?


Learning/Sensing Journey: designed to pull participants out of their normal/everyday experience to allow participants to move into unfamiliar environments, immerse themselves in different contexts, and step into relevant experiences. My two-year immersive Director's MBA program I think was a good example of this, where I spent three months stepping into executive leadership roles for different companies (forming a Shadow Board for the Metropolitan Police to present a solution for knife crime in Croydon to start the Program... for example). The idea is to experience the system from the most marginalized players in the system.


Coaching Circles: this is one of the areas within the program that I am most looking forward to, and really is kind of at the heart of the whole U.Lab experience. I experienced this within my MBA program as well in the form of Action Learning Groups. The idea is that we form smaller groups and meet every other week to give our own "case clinics."


What this means is we present our real-world problems (in my case I will be talking about the formation and launch of We Are Just Us) and then open up to have a generative conversation with those in the circle with us.


Here are my reflections on my attendance within my first coaching circle (I will also share more fully when it is my own turn to present.


"I participated in my first coaching circle this week with the Media & Storytelling Macro-Hub.

While I already feel a pretty deep connection with this group co-hosting it each week, I wasn't anticipating the connection deepening, but it is fair to say that it did.


Our first case giver was JoAnn who teaches at a local university. She brought the story of her class and her heartfelt desire to open up the class to a generative field of compassion and self-awareness. She set clear intentions in the beginning and struggled with her on internal dialogue on how the class was/is going.


Are the students paying attention? Do they understand? Am I teaching appropriate content?


What was amazing for me to witness within myself was my ability to connect in directly with JoAnn's energy, to be able to sense and feel her story, to reflect it back to her, her ancient inner wisdom, her heartfelt desire to change. When we were each mirroring back to her what we see, heard and felt, it felt as if we all stepped into this new realm of possibility with one another.


Then we moved into the generative space brainstorming on practical applications and ideas for her to engage with the students and close out the course.

The meeting was just over an hour, but as one of our members Ana shared, it really did feel like each and every one of us left a different and more expanded version of ourselves than we were when we arrived.


I will close with my final reflection notes on the session


💫 Co-Creation and being open to evolving to the needs of the group requires letting go of control and of the "plan"


💫 Bravery is required to open up to the process


💫 We won't always be "received" but it's not personal


💫 We can never fully know the difference or impact we can make on each other


💫 Our Higher/Future/Authentic selves know - they are calm and they know - just trust them"



Also included is Social Presencing Theater, which my next blog (and my next meeting of my Embrace Your Authenticity Writers club) will focus entirely on.


The idea behind the co-sensing phase is defined by 5 Core Principles

1. Identify Core Questions. What is within me that I am longing to sense more into? With my personal world, I am intentionally using U.Lab with the intention of "Trusting the Process" to help me to crystalize the vision and launch We Are Just Us.

I am using the next few months to get more clear on what this all looks, to actualize my highest future possibility to then formally launch in 2021.


2. Sensing Journey's: Taking deep-dive learning journey's to the places of most potential, which I will intentionally doing within the soft-launch of We Are Just Us.


3. Suspending our Voices of Judgment and open up the voice of wonder, the field of infinite possibilities that surrounds us. Although personally speaking it can be quite the nerve-wracking process because right now my rational thinking mind is demanding concrete, practical understanding, and part of that all needs to be released in order to enter into the field where all of this exists.


4. Practicing Deep Listening and Dialogue. The idea here is to create an intentional connection with others with our minds and hearts wide open.


5. Creating Collective Sensing Mechanisms that allows a system to see itself. This one took me a minute to really fully land in and understand, but really this means allowing us to see ourselves within the context of one another, the groups we are a part of, the organizations we work with. So creating the space to allow all of us to see how our actions impact one another and sense how interconnected we all really are.


Thank you, as always for tuning in.



© 2020 by Maria Vandenburg