Intentions and assumptions - field visit in Jaipur (India), Theory U style

Adam Yukelson, co-creator of the edX course u.lab on Theory U (Transforming Business, Society and Self) wrote an inspiring story on the application of Theory U in a business setting.

If you are interested in learning more about application of Theory U, you might like this article on his visit to a rug manufacturing company in Jaipur, India (Jaipur Rugs):

During his stay in Jaipur, Adam is preparing learning journeys with employees of Jaipur Rugs. Part of the preparation is to write down and subsequently share ones intentions and assumptions about the visit. I thought this is maybe something useful for us too when we prepare SALT visits. 

"Swati had told me the day before that she wanted to get beyond an intellectual knowledge of Theory U and understand how it’s applied in practice. Back in the conference room, she and Kavita Chaudhary, N.K.’s daughter and Design team lead, were outlining the plan for visiting the villages the following day. As Swati describe the schedule, it occurred to me: why not use this moment, which was essentially learning journey preparation, to lead them through the Theory U approach to learning journeys? Why wait until my scheduled workshop to be helpful? I offered this suggestion, and they were eager to do it.

I started by saying the key difference between a field visit and a learning journey is how you prepare, how you pay attention during the journey, and the reflection you do afterwards. I asked Kavita and Swati to take a pen and paper and suggested we each write down what intentions and assumptions we each had about tomorrow’s journey. After five minutes or so, we took turns sharing.

At one point, Swati shared a deep assumption about the motivation weavers have for participating in the foundation’s programs. I pointed out that this is exactly why we do this exercise. The real purpose of a learning journey is not only to learn something new about the world out there, but also to explore the ways in which we listen and pay attention during the visit. Are we only confirming conscious or unconscious beliefs we already had? Are we listening for something that might disprove what we hold true? Are we empathizing with those we meet? Are we pay attention to emerging future possibilities – that which is possible, but not quite there yet?

After just a few minutes of journaling, sharing, and framing, something noticeably shifted in the room. It felt as though we were no longer just three individuals going out on a trip to see Jaipur Rugs’ work. There was a deeper sense of purpose."

(End of excerpt)

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Comment by Marie Lamboray on October 3, 2016 at 4:02pm

En résumé:

Sur base d’une expérience d'Adam Yukelson (Théorie U), Birgitta Schomaker propose que les membres d'une équipe qui préparent une visite SALT explorent leurs préjugés et leurs intentions.


« Sommes-nous là [en visite SALT] pour confirmer nos préjugés conscients ou inconscients ? Cherchons-nous à réfuter ce que nous tenons pour vrai ? »

Les membres de l'équipe pourraient partager leurs préjugés pour s’encourager les uns les autres à lâcher prise et à rester curieux. Esprit ouvert : poser un regard nouveau.


« Sommes-nous en empathie avec ceux que nous rencontrons ?" Cœur ouvert: la connexion d'humain à humain, la compassion.


« Allons-nous être attentifs aux possibilités futures   ce qui est possible, mais pas encore tout à fait ? » [écoute générative] "Volonté ouverte" : être ouvert à ce qui arrive, ne pas imposer son propre ordre du jour, condition préalable à l’appropriation qui est la clé du succès de SALT et du PCCV.


« Quand nous sommes attentifs aux forces, lorsque nous faisons prendre consciences des forces, d'une certaine manière, nous sommes également en connexion avec les possibilités futures. Possibilités futures qui sont encore trop délicates et fragiles à dire à haute voix ... À l'écoute des espoirs et des désirs, même lorsqu'ils ne sont pas encore exprimés. »


« L’idée est de s’entre-aider au sein de l’équipe à se laisser surprendre. »


Comment by Birgitta Schomaker on September 19, 2016 at 2:55pm

Good idea, Anita.

Comment by Anita Sheehan-Nutz on September 18, 2016 at 6:47pm

Thank you Birgitta, for sharing this.

What if we included this preparatory step before each SALT visit/each SALT intervention to give it even more depth?

Comment by Birgitta Schomaker on September 15, 2016 at 7:28pm

Autry, Melwyn Madelon from Mauritius is following the current MOOC about Theory U, hosted by edX:

85.000 people worldwide registered!

Comment by Birgitta Schomaker on September 11, 2016 at 11:35pm

The reason I like to write about this, is to remind myself to let go of assumptions! To be honest, I find it really requires a lot of effort to practice Open Mind, Open Heart and Open Will....

Comment by Birgitta Schomaker on September 11, 2016 at 11:26pm

I can imagine that the notion of Open Mind, Open Heart and Open Will also resonate with people. 

Open Mind: seeing with new eyes.

Open Heart: connecting from human to human, compassion

Open Will: embracing what comes up, not forcing one's own agenda onto the situation. Open Will sets the stage (a prerequisite) for ownership that is the key of success of SALT/CLCP. 

Comment by Birgitta Schomaker on September 11, 2016 at 11:18pm

I think what it comes down to is to help each other in a team to let oneself be surprised. By sharing assumptions beforehand, it is easier I suppose to encourage one another to let go of these assumptions and to remind one another to stay curious.

Comment by Birgitta Schomaker on September 11, 2016 at 11:15pm


Also he explained how our assumptions often direct what we perceive. The four levels of listening are very helpful in that respect:

When we download, we only look for confirmation of our assumption, we are not really curious.

Many people have heard about empathic listening, which a great way to build the kind of human connection we would like to build in a SALT visit. 

Generative listening goes one step further or deeper. You listen intuitively to what is not said but what lives in the air, what you feel when people talk, what you read in between the lines, in their eyes, posture etc. 

When we listen for strenghts, when we bring to the surface strenghts, in a way we are also connecting with future possibilities. Future possibilities that are still too delicate and fragile to say out loud... Listening for hopes and desires, even when not yet expressed. 

Just a few thoughts....

Comment by Birgitta Schomaker on September 11, 2016 at 11:02pm

Hi Rituu, I consider myself a student in Theory U, just to set the record straight ;-)

What Adam did before they went on a so-called Learning Journey (which is part of the early stage of Theory U: sensing) was letting people write down their intentions and assumptions regarding the coming visit. Next they would share these. 

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on September 11, 2016 at 10:43pm

Hi Birgitta, as you understand Theory U very well, please elaborate on how would you use the mentioned exercise for SALT. I facilitate deep discussion before proceeding for a SALT visit and would like to strengthen my practice.




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