Turning the tide – Otto Scharmer

MIT Sloan Sr. Lecturer Otto Scharmer

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Otto Scharmer

From Medium

Something has shifted over the past few weeks and months. Not just since the recent US midterm elections or the climate deal in Katowice last week. There’s some real change in the air. In fact, it’s been there for a while. But we might not have noticed it…

…due to that other series of events. Brexit. Trump. Bolsonaro. Orban. Salvini. Erdogan. Duterte. The list goes on. It’s like standing in the boxing ring, encountering punches left and right. We’re still absorbing one blow as the next is already being launched. That’s how the past two-plus years have felt to me — and I assume to many. But now, as 2018 draws to a close, for the first time in a while I feel that we’re getting back on our feet; we’re beginning to shift our mode of operating from reactive to generative.

I certainly sense that shift within myself. But I also feel it, more importantly, in the communities that I have connected with recently. In this column, I share some of their stories and conclude with a view of the bigger-picture societal transformation I see happening: an axial shift in politics, in economics, and in our learning and leadership systems that transcends our current modes of operating.

Indonesia: Revolusi Mental

Like Costa Rica, Indonesia is an inspiring example of positive development at country level that focuses on the well-being of all. It comes at a moment that the United States seems to be at risk of falling apart and much of Europe is consumed by the Brexit saga. Indonesia, the world’s third most populous democracy, as well as the largest Muslim-majority country, has gone through a remarkable period of peaceful development over the past decade plus. When I visited Indonesia for the first time in 2003, shortly after the Bali bombings and the 9–11 terrorist attacks in the United States, the expectation inside the US State Department was that Indonesia might become the next Afghanistan — succumbing to terrorism, violence, and self-destruction. That was then.

In 2018, who is on the brink of falling apart? The West. Not only because of “Individual 1”, who [still] operates from the White House. But also (or mainly) because the West has not (yet) risen to the occasion, and has not yet moved past the special interest groups (from Big Money and Big Oil, to Big Pharma and Big Tech) that keep us trapped in a bubble of the past.

President Jokowi, elected in July 2014 and the first Indonesian president not to come from an elite political or military background, was brought to power by a broad social movement of young people, artists, and cultural creatives. He has inspired the country and the world by moving, at least in part, beyond the grip of those special interest groups. In his first term, he has focused on eradicating corruption and upgrading the outer infrastructure (such as the Mass Rapid Transit system). In his intended second term, he wants to focus on upgrading the inner infrastructure — concentrating on human capital and what he refers to as a revolusi mental (a mindset revolution) — working toward Indonesia 4.0. Even though many profound challenges remain, including the deeply concerning rise of fundamentalist extremism funded and fueled from Saudi Arabia, the overall Indonesian story is a source of hope; particularly as the next chapter now begins to focus on human development as a prerequisite for societal development and for tackling the 2030 SDG agenda (the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals).

Over the past ten years, I have chaired a tri-sector leadership program for sustainable development at MIT called IDEAS. Indonesian leaders from business, government, and civil society spend a week on campus as part of a nine-month transformative leadership journey that helps them reflect on their own behavioral patterns as individuals, as organizations, sectors, and the country as a whole, while learning to use a variety of systems thinking tools. These tools include the C-Roads Climate Change Simulation (developed by MIT’s System Dynamics Group), learning journeys, stakeholder dialogues, deep listening practices, generative dialogue, design thinking, and other practices of awareness-based systems change.

Grounded in MIT’s action learning approach, each leadership journey results in hands-on prototyping initiatives in which cross-sector teams focus on testing and refining practical solutions to pressing societal challenges. The results of these prototyping initiatives, and of the entire nine-month leadership journey, are then presented to the public in a workshop at one of the ministries involved (usually the Ministry of Trade, Finance, Environment, or the Ministry of the Creative Economy).

Read the full post at Medium.

Otto Scharmer is a Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan. 

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