U Lab: Leading From the Emerging Future



Reflections on being a U Lab learner by Wafaa Beaini  –  Welcome Dinner Project Victoria South East Hub Member

Wafaa is currently part of a small group of WDP Victoria volunteers who are learning about Otto Scharmer’s Theory U as part of the 2017 MOOC U Lab.

What brought me to this course?

Being a keen learner with an eager mind, I often find myself seeking new learning whenever an opportunity arises. That’s  why when I knew about the U Lab course through the WDP, I didn’t hesitate to enrol in this wonderful opportunity. Personally, education for me is one of the most valuable, timeless and indispensable assets that a person can have in their life. Like Malcolm X says, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today”. I feel empowered not just through my academic qualifications but also for my general development and wellbeing. It fills me with both excitement and satisfaction to challenge myself to build a new skill, add knowledge, and connect and better understand the world around me.

Why did I sign up?

When I was first offered the U lab course by the WDP, I was filled with curiosity about its paradoxical concept: learning from the future as it emerges. How could it be possible to acquire learning from something that is yet to come?! This “wrongheaded” type of learning stimulated my curiosity and increased my eagerness to know more about it. The coaching circle was also a great platform to build my coaching skills. Coaching is an emerging industry receiving widespread buy-in due to its adaptability; I knew that I could only benefit from applying it in my field. Last but not least, I knew it would be beneficial and enjoyable to do this unit with other friends from the WDP. Through U Lab, we connect and support each other online on a weekly basis, sharing what we have learnt about this course and how we can use it to benefit the WDP more broadly.

What am I learning?

Until this course, I thought that learning occurs through the traditional organisational methods that heavily rely on the accumulated, trusted and well-established past knowledge from evidence-based practices and well-known respected resources. Through U Lab, I was surprised to find there is another possible way: that is, using the emerging future as a principal source of learning. Like any novelty, I had mixed feelings of excitement and confusion about this new approach to learning. There were also a lot of jargon and unfamiliar technical terms (e.g. “Presencing”).  But as I went through the materials of the course, I found that the best way to absorb this new topic was to read, reflect and revisit the content again and again, especially the accompanying videos and presentations.

My biggest takeaway was reflecting on how timely this theory is with the state of the world right now. There is no doubt that we are living in an era of uncertainty and a global crisis that is strongly believed to be the result of the deterioration in the social structures, and the breakdown of values and norms; all of which are contributing to what we are witnessing of the outburst of increased violence, hate, crime and wars all over the world. Many social thinkers, researchers, change makers and activists might argue that these conflicts and troubles are the manifestations of the various disconnections (ecological, social and spiritual) that we, as individuals and groups, are experiencing in our modern time.

Furthermore, it is beyond arguing that the old measures and quick-fix methods that repeatedly used by leaders and organisational settings have failed to remedy the underlying causes of these lasting crises, and there is definitely an urge to face these challenges with more innovative and sustainable solutions that are specifically designed to meet the new realities. In this sense, what Otto (the lead instructor of this course) is proposing —in his theory in particular and the U Lab course more generally—can provide a roadmap to a new pattern, at an individual and collective level, of thinking, conversing  and acting that highly focuses on being present and connected with one another and ourselves which enable us to co-shape the future with more openness and collaboration. It is definitely a new science that challenges the status quo of old schools and methodologies and could be one of the promising ways of learning that would help us to cope with the social shifts we are seeing and make the positive change in this world possible.

How does the content connect to WDP?   

Although I am still at the early stages of this course, it is becoming clearer to me that what U Lab is promoting largely correlates with WDP’s objectives. U Lab emphasises the importance of connectedness at both an individual and social level and seeks to change how we think and act to create harmony and build community. By simultaneously encouraging a connection to our inner self and as a group to systems, it aims to create a positive shift in the world around us. This emphasis on connectivity is a central philosophy of WDP’s parent organisation Joining the Dots, which, as its name implies, is trying to address the issue of disconnection by joining the not-yet-joined dots. Just like U Lab, we believe that this disconnection is the root of all the issues that our communities are facing and that is only by “reconnecting to our inner-self, our community and our sense of place (land/country/earth)” that we can make the positive sustainable change that we want to see in the world. By delivering the WDP, Joining the Dots promotes a shift in values and perception towards celebrating diversity and enhancing harmony, and encourages a social transformation towards more connected, peaceful, happy and resilient communities in Australia and across the world.

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