Aufmerksamkeit und Unterhaltung

„Form Follows Consciousness“ (Otto Scharmer)

Aufmerksamkeit und Unterhaltung, also Unterhaltung im Sinne von Gespräch: das sind zwei wesentliche Aspekte, wenn es um Lernen und Veränderung geht. Und beides hängt eng zusammen.  Hier lohnt ein genauerer Blick.

Auf Herausferderungen reagieren wir mit Handlungen. Otto Scharmers Theorie U wirbt dafür, nicht direkt von der Herausforderung in die Handlung zu springen, sondern sich in eine Reflexionsschleife zu begeben, die eine erweiterte Handlungsfähigkeit ermöglicht. In seinem Buch The Essentials of Theory U finden sich eine Menge interessanter Impulse zur Gestaltung eines Lernens und Handelns von der Zukunft her. In der VUCA-Welt stößt ein Lernen und Handeln aus der Vergangenheit an Grenzen. Scharmer entfaltet einen Orientierungs- und Handlungsrahmen zur Erschließung angemessener Formen des gemeinsamen und schöpferischen Gestaltens von Zukunft.

Scharmer setzt sich mit den Quellen des Handelns bzw. dem „inneren Ort“ auseinander, von dem aus wir wahrnehmen, kommunzieren und handeln. Er überschreitet dabei die gängige Betrachtungsweise, die in erster Linie auf Ergebnisse (Was) und Prozesse (Wie) schaut. Während wir im Alltag eine deutliche oder zumindest ungefähre Ahnung davon haben was wir und andere tun und auch davon wie wir und andere handeln, attestiert Scharmer uns einen „blinden Fleck“ hinsichtlich der Herkunft unseres Handelns, des Ortes der Entstehung und der Qualität unserer Aufmerksamkeit. Er unterscheidet vier fundamental verschiedene Feldstrukturen, vier Quellpunkte der Handlung. Und hier liegt ein interessanter Bezugspunkt, wenn es um Lernen und Veränderung geht.

Statt Handlungsergebnisse und -prozesse in den Blick zu nehmen, lädt Scharmer dazu ein, Bewusstseinszustände („state of awareness“) bzw. verschiedene Aufmerksamkeitsstrukturen zu fokussieren. Je nach Situation/ Kontext gilt es diese dann zu wechseln.


„These icons illustrate the four structures of attention, or the four different ways in which action and attention enter the world:

Field 1: Habitual. My action comes from inside my own boundaries (I-in-me). My reaction is triggered by external events and shaped by my habits of the past.

Field 2: Ego-system. My action comes from the periphery of my system (I-in-it). It arises from a subject-object awareness that analyzes and responds to exterior data.

Field 3: Empathic-Relational. My action comes from beyond my boundaries (I-in-you). It arises from the place that the other person, with whom I communicate, operates from.

Field 4: Generative Eco-system. My action comes from the sphere that surrounds my open boundaries (I-in-us/I-in-now). It arises from presencing a future potential.“

(Scharmer, Otto. The Essentials of Theory U: Core Principles and Applications . Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle-Version. Position: 625)

Die unterschiedlichen Effekte in Hinblick auf die Konstruktion der Wirklichkeit, wie sie aus diesen verschiedenen Aufmerksamkeitsstrukturen resultieren, dekleniert Scharmer anhand verschiedener Systemebenen aus:

„Social fields are enacted on all these levels through four primary forms of action: attending (micro), conversing (meso), organizing (macro), and coordinating (mundo). It is through these four activities that we as humans collectively create the reality we live in.“ (Scharmer, Otto. The Essentials of Theory U: Core Principles and Applications . Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle-Version. Position 606)

Am Beispiel „conversing“ stellt sich das dann so dar:

Die vier oben dargestellten Aufmerksamkeitsstrukturen korrespondieren mit verschiedenen Gesprächsqualitäten. Die Alltagswelt ist gesprägt von den ersten beiden, für Lernen und Veränderung sind dann aber die beiden folgenden besonders bedeutsam.


Scharmer charakterisiert die verschiedenen Typen der Konversation wie folgt:

Downloading: Enacting Conversations from Field 1

“How are you?” “I am fine.” Many formal meetings in organizations are conducted using this kind of ritualistic language. Operating effectively in such conversations requires that participants conform to the dominant pattern of exchanging polite phrases rather than saying what is really on their minds. In school, we learn to say what the teacher wants to hear. Later, we use the same skill to deal with bosses and to get ahead in organizations. If it serves us as individuals, what is wrong with it? The problem is that this type of conversation—viewed from an organizational learning point of view—tends to result in completely dysfunctional behavior: It prevents teams from talking about what is really going on. They talk about the real stuff somewhere else—in the parking lot, on their way home. But in the workplace and in meetings, everyone’s time is wasted when they do nothing more than exchange polite comments. Downloading conversations simply reproduces existing phrases. Just as during individual downloading my perception of the world is limited to my existing mental frames and templates, conversational downloading articulates only those aspects of reality (as experienced by the participants) that fit into the dominant frameworks and conversational patterns of the group. The bigger the gap between what is said (“I am fine”) and the actual situation (“I am about to die”), the higher the likelihood of some kind of disruption or breakdown in the system down the road.

Debate: Enacting Conversations from Field 2

“How are you?” “I am terrible.” The defining feature of field 2 conversations is that participants speak their minds. For example, once, some twenty years ago, an audience member told me that he did not understand a single word of my presentation. Another example: An employee tells his CEO that some of his business practices are harmful and out of touch. These kinds of comments raise tensions. Everyone feels uncomfortable. This kind of conversation abandons rule-reproducing language for a tougher type of conversation in which individuals dare to differ. The ticket to enter a field 1 conversation is the (unspoken) requirement to conform. The entry ticket to a field 2 conversation is the willingness to take a different stance. To get some airtime in a field 1 conversation you must conform to others’ views (usually the boss’s). In field 2, you suggest a different point of view. Just as in individual perception, the shift from downloading to seeing means being open to disconfirming data. Field 2 conversations imply opening up to viewpoints that challenge the dominant views. The structure that results from this kind of interaction is often a debate. The word “debate” literally means “to fight or beat down.” People use their arguments to beat or best their opponent, defined as anyone with a different opinion. Debate and the expression of differing views can be useful in organizations because they put all the opinions on the table. In many Asian cultures, the best way to get participants into field 2 is by engaging people in small groups and allowing everyone to share their observations and views on a topic. The process is more like brainstorming different views than debating, which helps with issues of face-saving when confronting one’s boss. Still, it delivers much of the same fundamental field 2 bottom line: the expression of diverse views. But if an issue requires team members to reflect on and change their habits of thought and guiding assumptions, a different type of conversation than debate is needed—one that allows participants to realize that “I am not my point of view,” as my colleague Bill Isaacs, author of Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together, likes to say. I can suspend my own point of view and look at somebody else’s assumptions. But to do so, I need to move into field 3.

Dialogue: Enacting Conversations from Field 3

“How are you?” “Not sure. But how are you, my friend?” “Not sure either. I too arrived with an uneasy feeling.” “Oh, really? How interesting. Tell me about it. What’s going on?” Dialogue comes from the Greek logos, “word” or “meaning,” and dia, “through,” and can be literally translated as “meaning moving through.” Moving from debate (field 2) to dialogue (field 3) involves a profound shift in the collective field structure of attention through which a conversation operates. Just as the move from seeing to sensing on the individual level involves a shift from facing the world as an exterior set of objects to experiencing the world from the field, the shift from debate to dialogue also involves a shift from trying to beat down the contrary view to inquiring into each other’s views, empathically listening from the other. When this shift toward a dialogic field of conversation happens, your perspective widens to include yourself—you move from seeing the world as an exterior set of objects to seeing the world and yourself from the whole.

Collective Presence: Enacting Conversations from Field 4

Level 4 generative conversations give birth to new ideas, imaginings, identities, and inspired energy. Examples include high-performing sports teams, jazz ensembles, and other groups in which musicians listen to themselves while simultaneously listening to the emerging collective music. When the quality of the listening and conversation moves into a generative stage, there are distinct changes in people’s experience. In field 4 conversations, the “How are you?” example reaches its limit. The shift into this deeper field of collective presence often happens in a transitional moment of stillness. That is why groups that want to access this deepest level often use intentional stillness as a gateway. It is a space of “doing nothing”—of neither over-intervening nor disengaging. When that deeper generative field is activated, we usually experience it as time slowing down, space opening, widening, the sense of self decentering, while the self-other boundary opens up to a collective presence from which the conversation seems to flow. What I often experience in a generative dialogue is that ideas emerge collectively. People no longer say “This is my idea.” Instead, the group engages in the art of thinking together where one idea builds on the other. The impact of this type of conversation can be profound, shaping or reshaping the course of one’s life.“ (Scharmer, Otto. The Essentials of Theory U: Core Principles and Applications . Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle-Version. Position 689 ff)