Science & Technology

Expert: ‘New learning infrastructures’ are key to forging better future

By Alejandro Prieto

Montevideo, Apr 14 (EFE).- Solving the world’s most pressing problems requires fresh ways of thinking and “new learning infrastructures” that enable people and organizations to forge a better tomorrow, according to Massachusetts Institute of Technology lecturer Otto Scharmer, author of the book “Theory U: Leading from the Future as It Emerges.”

During a visit to Uruguay’s capital for activities including leading an international seminar organized by the University of the Republic, the German-American academic said in an interview with Efe that three fundamental issues are at the heart of humanity’s current crisis – environmental problems, socioeconomic inequalities and mental illness.

He also added that each is linked to the other.

“You cannot address the root issues of climate change without addressing inequality because in our economies, as everyone knows, (there are) what economists call negative externalities,” the senior lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and founding chair of the Presencing Institute said.

Scharmer added that the way these matters have been addressed in the past has been off-target.

“How have we responded historically? Well, environment … we create a ministry. The social issues, let’s create another ministry. Education, all these things, OK here you have another ministry. And then we address these issues more on a symptoms level,” the expert said.

“Probably, all the players involved would only agree on one thing, which is: more of the same is not good enough,” he added.

The organizational change expert also criticized social media for fomenting anger, hate and fear.

“After the last three years of the pandemic, the problem in our social-media informed world of filter bubbles is polarization. So what’s kind of falling apart is the trust that we have in each other,” he said.

In that regard, the expert said that “investing into new learning infrastructures that allow us to rebuild deeper relationships across the bubbles, across the organizations, across ideologies, kind of across the sectors, is the foundation for us.”

Under the current scenario in which people “live in literally different worlds,” creating a “shared map” of reality is the basis for “thinking together and acting together in different ways.”

Scharmer’s organizational change method involves a seven-step process that first entails going down the left side of the “U” and “downloading” past patterns, “seeing” with fresh eyes and “sensing” from the field.

At the bottom of the “U,” one finds “presencing,” in which an individual or organization starts turning the corner and connecting with what is possible.

The final three steps are “crystallizing” the new vision and intention; “prototyping,” or exploring the future by doing; and “performing” by operating from the whole.

“At the end of the day, much of the current system is focusing on the knowledge transfer of the knowledge of the past. Some of that is absolutely needed, but what we also need is building the capacity to co-imagine and to co-create the future. And that’s what’s missing today,” Scharmer said. EFE


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