An Experiment: Our Sensing Journey

Malek Jaber
Nov 5, 2016 · 14 min read
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Photograph by Malek Jaber

What if a small group of people could change the world? This statement comes up more and more frequently, and many individuals are successfully setting out to achieve this.

This was our reason for initiating the Sensing Journey Experiment: A small team went on a journey together to sense into the needs of an inclusive community called Teal for Startups (T4S), which represents a diverse microcosm of our world today. This blog shares the results of our experimental journey, seeking to answer the many questions asked by the community: How can I get involved? How do we form teams? How do I contribute, run experiments, or share information effectively within the ecosystem?

In Stage 1, we co-created and ran a survey across the entire community by inviting people to participate via the Facebook group (Which was a thousand members strong at the time). The survey was opened for a month and around one hundred people completed it. The survey consisted of the following questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What are your professional aspirations?
  • How did you hear about Teal for Startups?
  • What brings you to the Teal for Startups community?
  • What keeps you with Teal for Startups?
  • If a close friend asked why you are part of this group, what ONE experience or event would you tell them about so that they understood what it is like?
  • What gifts would you most like to offer to the community?
  • What do you love about your work?
  • What would you like to see more of in the Teal for Startups community?
  • What do you need in order to be able to contribute to the group?
  • How can Teal for Startups best serve you, and what is not working for you?
  • Is there anything else that you would like to share?

Stage 2 started as we closed the survey, and every community member was invited to set about analysing the data. Through self-selection, people participated throughout the community.

In Stage 2, we aimed to analyse the results of the survey and around thirty people signed up. Over the first couple of weeks, we hosted briefing calls to present the approach to interested participants. One of the key outputs from the calls was an agreement to doing a regular weekly call. During the briefing calls, we discovered that a lot of participants were interested in the initiative as a co-learning space. There was less energy to dig into the data and start visualising it. In general, what we sensed that the community wanted most was learning spaces, and so the weekly call became that space. The co-creators who felt the energy to actively work on the data formed a separate team of six people who created survey illustrations.

The co-creation team worked in two ways. The first was focused on individual work, which included reviewing the survey data to see what resonated most with us individually. We analysed this data freely. A key point here was that the process each of us followed to analyse the data was not prescriptive. It gave us the freedom to be creative and develop our own style. After each person had time to illustrate, we regrouped to share, listen and reflect on each of the visualisations.

The result is a co-created body of work that includes the illustrations and insights of each co-creator. We discovered that it was when working collectively, true co-creation emerged only after some personal work had been conducted.

Below is the summary of the results of the survey insights linked back to the original survey questions:

Survey Question: Who are you?

Two-thirds of the community members who responded to the survey are coaches/mentors, with a visible overlap with startup founders. The understanding is that coaches/mentors are the first to feel the shift in paradigms. Startups then have the unique opportunity to build the new paradigm into the heart of their organisations.

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Visualisation by Mieke Byerley

Survey Question: What are your professional aspirations?

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Visualisation by Mieke Byerley

The survey conveys a desire to be part of the changing paradigm and the social landscape. It also recognises the unique position startups provide as the means to effecting and leading these changes. Only one-fifth of the respondents actually mention that they want to co-create, yet 47% are interested in others; however only in the actual person-to-person interactions. It seems that participants are happy to help others, yet they are not willing to co-create. This feels that the majority of people within the group are focused on self development, and it reflects what happens in the Facebook group requests for insights and help.

Survey Question: How did you hear about Teal for Startups?

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Visualisation by Mieke Byerley

Facebook is the main point of contact for people right now as it’s a familiar anchor point. The most common movements are Reinventing Organisations (Teal) and Theory U. The bar from U.lab is supposed to be higher, as it wasn’t included in the original survey, but appeared in the many responses.

Survey Question: What brings you to the Teal for Startups community?

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The responses show that 47% of respondents joined T4S to build their professional aspirations as well as to build their business. 21% are going through personal development themselves while helping others.

Survey Question: What keeps you with Teal for Startups?

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General View: The main insight is that a lot of people are just curious to see what this network is really about.There is also curiosity about what Teal is.

Personal Need: Just below half of respondents looked at Teal because they want to expand their business. 59% come to learn about Teal and see it as an opportunity for business expansion. This shows that people want to be inspired and feel connected. Hence this is what keeps them in the community.

Benefit the world: Respondents also expressed the desire to add value to the world and, at the same time, people joined the community hoping it would support them in their personal growth.

Survey Question: If a close friend asked why you are part of this group, what ONE experience or event would you tell them about so that they understood what it is like?

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There is a lot of intrinsic motivation to be in this space. Participants are here to learn and to work together to create a more desirable future for everyone. There is a sense of belonging here.

Survey Question: What gifts would you most like to offer to the community?

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Visualisation by Malek Jaber

It’s beautiful to see the gifts people have to offer to the community. There’s a large group of people who want to work at an external level (be visible in the world) and there is a smaller group who are happy to focus at the internal level (curating, ghostwriting, visualising). This highlights that recognition is often perceived as connected to external acknowledgement. We need to remain aware of the situation so that the invisible becomes visible through appreciation and co-acknowledgement.

Survey Question: What do you love about your work?

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Visualisation by Steph

The responses here relates to the fact that the participants’ calling is mainly mentoring and coaching. Their purpose drives them to support individuals, who in turn will be supporting their own businesses to drive the birth of the new paradigm. This feels like a gathering of people who are working from their true purpose: coaches and mentors supporting others. Understanding people’s passion and leveraging it within the community multiplies its potential for change making, which is also a significant result in this question.

Survey Question: What would you like to see more of in the Teal for Startups community?

Less time restriction: The perceived challenge is that there is not enough time. The real challenge is letting go of the concept of time and things that are holding us back, as seen in the Time and Money section below.

Local events: 55% of the community did express the need for local events and are waiting for others to initiate them. What is still lacking are sustainable local events. The practicality of organising such events creates a cost (personal energy and venue), and we personally experienced people’s reluctance to make the investment.

Virtual events: 54% expressed the need for deep dives on specific topics. Virtual events enable connecting internationally. It is amazing that those have started happening organically.

More experiments: 40% of participants would like to see more experiments. Some participants mentioned that they don’t feel comfortable or confident about leading or contributing because they don’t feel they have the expertise, yet they do want to participate. The reality here is that no one is an expert and everyone is free to start their own experiment to become an expert.

Survey Question: What do you need in order to be able to contribute to the group? How can Teal for Startups best serve you, what is not working for you?

The first need for the community as a whole is a space for everyone to start their self-development journey. When you look more closely, it feels like there’s a fourth breakthrough not being mentioned anywhere else: Self-Leadership. Personal leadership is being brought in to support the other Teal breakthroughs, as self-management can’t happen without self-leadership. As a community, we have a chance to integrate this fourth breakthrough to our collective journey. People’s need for self-development is a recurring theme in survey results. Without self-development, self-leadership won’t emerge.

What is needed is more space for self-development. This is an open invitation for anyone to step in and create those spaces and experiments. Illustrated below is a potential global ecosystem blueprint which was designed by using the FLOW framework, where the groups are depicted as circles, and the team depicted as autonomous and heart-centred holons, this visual expresses both the present and potential future emergence growth of T4S:

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A Global Ecosystem Blueprint by Malek Jaber

Survey Question: Is there anything else that you would like to share?

“YES! I feel and have always felt GRATITUDE for being able to participate on anything Teal for Startups! i can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but it never fails. …….maybe i could say that Teal for Startups has an innate “Conscious Intelligence” in the works?……. :-D” — said one member

There was a real sense of gratitude throughout the entire community.

Time and Money — “Letting go to Letting Come”

While embodying this and also being present in other experiments (Teal/Theory U/etc), FLOW emerged.

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The FLOW Cycle Visualisation by Malek Jaber

“When there is a belief, the belief manifests love and this love means that we are willing to go on a journey of uncertainty. With love, fear is non-existent, it enables us to FLOW and let the new flourish within ourselves and the world.” — Malek Jaber

A common thread across the whole survey is a very visible tension when it comes to the relationship between money and time. Many participants expressed the desire to be more involved with community experiments and felt that lack of time was limiting their contribution. Their personal time is being taken by the need to generate an income. Taking the need for money as a basic need, there is also a feeling that people are drawn to a moneyless form of exchange, such as the gift economy. Most would like to participate and join events, yet few are willing to support the costs.

Another tension was felt when it came to participants’ perception of the community’s goals and of the concept of Teal as a whole. How does Teal work? Does it actually work in practice?

This is a common trend seen in early stage communities and shifts to new paradigms. The initial active group are the ones who believe without evidence, and are willing to start first. They are the innovators (2.5%), excited about doing the deep work in an uncertain terrain.

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Observations on the Sensing Journey

The sensing journey was a gathering of like-minded people who went on a human journey together. It was a human process where we reflected back on some of the challenges experienced in the current paradigm. For example, several people in the community demanded some type of governance. When a team formed to create a piece of governance (the facebook guidelines), only a few people participated.

In the movement of going from the visible (talking about it) to the invisible (doing the work), it seems like people lose interest when there is no immediate, visible results. From a participation level, it feels that the natural co-creation flows this way: High interest at the beginning, little during the journey where most of the work is done and rediscovered interest as soon as the work is taking shape and about to be released.

It feels like there is more potential energy in the community than is currently being accessed. However the sensing journey demonstrated to us that there is also a major need for self-development in order to support participants to be sufficiently comfortable with the process to self-initiate experiments.

A Few Examples of What didn’t work?

  • The calls were important co-learning and co-creating spaces. More of those spaces are needed for people to learn, to be inspired and to share the tensions experienced throughout their learning journey. The group calls became co-learning spaces and the work needed to happen on separate calls.
  • It is important for people who form a team to have resonant interpersonal relationships. We learnt that team formation and interpersonal relationships should be the first step to co-creation. Without this “resonance-ship” bond, co-creation cannot happen.
  • We started from the mindset of work and quickly realised that co-creation flourishes better when we lead with a playful mind. We believe that the next stage of growth starts when we all have learnt how to play again.

What is T4S for the Sensing Journey Team?

During a team call on the 23rd of September 2016, we each answer this question and below was our response:

Malek: “An Ecosystem Playground: A place and space for new possibilities to emerge. It enables a space where there is no judgement, so it allows the possibility to grow. It also enables everyone to start their journey to realise their full potential. Being an ecosystem, it also represents a microcosm of our future potential. It is our playground, our lab, our experimentation place where we’re free to try out new things and where it’s OK to fail. This way we can create a future together. And this future is the reality that we want to see in the world. This space gives us the freedom to play away from rigid systems and at multiple levels: e.g. ecosystem, community and personal, which have a place, a role, to play in this group.”

Mieke: “It feels like a nursery. This is where I go to get nourished on a personal level. This is where new relationships, new perspectives, connections, ideas and collaborations flourish. Environment is where emergence occurs almost spontaneously because it’s allowed to. There is an additional nurturing and personal nourishment factor that gives me this feeling of safe space.”

Simon: “It is a place to connect with like-minded people. People who want to create better, more humane workspaces. Ultimately, it’s not much about startups, more about accessing spaces where that exploration can happen. While we are not many active co-creators yet, there are many who want to see this change happen and spread throughout the entire world”

Steph: “To me it’s like Home. It’s an aspiration towards a better future for everyone, a space to learn and discover. It is also a new way of being, connecting, interacting with the people I see as my tribe. We are re-discovering a way for people to flourish in their dreams and aspirations.”


As with most learning journeys, this is about appreciating the current system and celebrating it to support what it wants to become. When looking at our wider participation across communities (e.g. the sharing economy), we have noticed that this need is being expressed across the board. The insight gained led to some personal realisations and the birth of several theories and systems that will be shared at a later stage. This journey of discovery, learning and sharing that is helping the T4S community bond. We are all continuously growing, individually and as a team to increase our impact and support the transformation of the existing ecosystem. We believe that individuals should first discover their true own purpose, before working on emerging a collective purpose.

The main learning is that when you birth something new, it takes a life of its own. Yet for it to flourish, it needs to be supported and not controlled by expectations. We need to realise what it is becoming and accept it for what it is, rather than for what we would like it to be. Those births are germinated within many separate pockets made of individual change agents and the team around them. They finally bloom and spread to affect the world around them. What needs to emerge will emerge naturally and grow organically. We are aware that many experiments have happened within, and were born out of our community over the past year, and we would love to hear about people’s individual and collective journeys, in whichever format you choose to share it.

What is an experiment? This is the first task for your curiosity. Anything that leads to an exploration and supports you in a better understanding of the unknown, or to re-evaluate the perceived known. Question everything. For example: the Evolutionary Purpose Journey, the Sensing Journey.

So what’s next? Stage 3: “It’s all about you”

Stage 3 is where you may define and start experiments by yourself or within a small group. Those experiments may lead to natural teams emerging. We would be appreciative if you can share the results of those experiments back with the community for collective learning, for example, by writing a blog.

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A visual scribe of a team call by Rebecca Quansah

Through these experiments, the T4S community self-drives its own co-learning journey. Together we can pave the way and bring the new paradigm into existence. If you are wondering what experiments you could run, consider what key challenge you are experiencing in the current paradigm? Now think about how you could define an experiment with a small group of people to explore that challenge.

For now, we are building the community one experiment at a time and sharing our journeys through blogs. To support us please like and share this blog.


The authors of this blog are Malek who is the co-initiator of T4S and co-founder of UnleashLeadership, and Steph who is the founder of Ikigai and co-creator for T4S. Stage 1 committed co-creation team: Malek, Mieke, Morya, Steph, and all the sensing survey respondents. Stage 2 committed co-creation team: Malek, Mieke, Natalia, Rebecca, Simon, Steph, and the co-learning participants: Amanda J, Gabriela, Ieva, Josephine, Jussi, Marie, Mariusz, Pamela, Tena, Tom, and Yolande who joined on an occasional basis. Special thanks to Amanda S for her editing skills. Other References: Teal, Theory U.

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