Derivé, by the French visual artist Hugo Livet

U Theory: the methodology that seeks to emerge the new

Jun 12 · 9 min read

by Victor Hugo Barreto
with contributions by
Sarah Brito and Rodrigo Turra;
editor and intro by
Gustavo Nogueira (Gust)

Leia aqui em Português

Sandglass is part of our ongoing program of time studies. The social infrastructure of affection in which TORUS invites a specialist to share knowledge about their vision of the time around us, for about an hour, weekly. As the sand grains of our hourglass run, we strengthen our network, narrow relationships and experiment in a safe space of knowledge exchange.

This week’s guest was Georgia Cunha, consultant, facilitator and project manager from the teachings of the U Theory. Georgia has knowledge based on anthroposophy, Schein process consulting, enneagram, mindfulness and design thinking, besides being a Master in Sustainability Management and Corporate Social Responsibility by Bocconi de Milan and MBA in Project Management by FGV-SP

Just like me, Georgia navigates the world but maintains its connection with the roots of the Amazon region, also in Belém do Pará. I feel that we are a very powerful network that emerged from the forest and I feel part of her family there — just like her today also won her place as a guest expert in the TORUS network. Her knowledge and practices have inspired us greatly to evolve as a movement. I‘m curious for what, together, we’ll still make emerge.

Gustavo Nogueira (Gust)⏳❤️

Sandglass ⧖ Torus : U Theory — Georgia Cunha

In this meeting, we learned the potential that Theory U can bring to people and organizations interested in a journey of change, as well as the importance of “intervening” professional figures such as consultants and facilitators who help in these processes.

Otto Sharmer

Theory U is a theoretical framework developed by MIT researcher Otto Scharmer, who brought together diverse knowledge from different areas in a methodology that proposes processes of change and transformation in any system, like organizations, institutions, communities and families.

Their starting point is that we live in a system that limits us as individuals and collectively and that generates negative results for all of us.

Fonte: Georgia Cunha

This happens because we only have the perception of the tip of the iceberg.

And that in order to really understand the situation we need to go down to the depth and complexity below that point that we are not being able to access.

And that, in the background, mean the structures, the paradigms of thought and the deeper source of the intention and the SELF.

Theory U is a way of dealing with all these complex issues from a new model of learning and innovation. Understanding that we can no longer rely on the repetition of the past as we did, but that a model based on futures that still want to emerge needs to be thought of.

Theory U is the methodology that seeks to emerge the new.

Source: Skilla

And what is the process? The idea of ​​Theory U comes from the letter U itself, if you stop to think of the drawing that the letter does (as in the illustration above). It comes from the idea that if you are going to think of a solution or need to solve a problem or create an innovation, the tendency is to go from one point of the present to a point in the future with mental models, with paradigms, with the history of the people involved in this situation.

The U Theory proposal is a “U-Shift” of change in seven steps. It is about going to the other side, that would be the future, where it descends deeper into this subject (hence the connection with the image of the iceberg), open to the perception of new information in a more subtle way, until arriving at what they call “U-base” (step 4) in which, in fact, the will is opened for something new, letting go of things that are hindering us, both of understanding and of practical things in the process of creation. Only then, on the rise to the other side of the U we create something new, which, so far, none of the participants or anyone on the team involved had before in the mind.

Open mind, open heart, open will. Source: Xaviera Lopes

“So the base of the U is very connected with an understanding of mindfulness, because it is the moment after this descent of the U and you seek new perspectives of the subject, it allows you to stop at this base of the U and have a moment “What do we really want to do here? What is really our work here? What seems to emerge as a future? “

A challenge for working in organizations is that they tend to attach themselves to traditional ways of the past, to what has already been or are being done and do not take into account the spirit of the time in which we live in. In a world of constant transformation, it is no longer possible to act based only on the repetition of what has already been seen in the past or that worked well before (but not now). The idea is that you allow the new, that you connect with a future that is completely new to that subject, theme or challenge.

“The ‘U’ rise, for example, is connected to design thinking by prototyping. The idea is that on this ‘u-journey’, on the ascent, on the arrival on the other side, you arrive with something new, different. Even if to solve a certain challenge you need to take several ‘u paths’ or start new journeys that allow you to go deeper, or more connected with what you want or need to do in that case. It’s where you’re at that moment and where you want to go.”

Global Perspective of Theory U

What was a methodology for organizational development, today is understood as a basic tool for system transformation: personal, organizational and even planetary.

The purpose of the U Theory involves a proposal for global change, of another collective planetary consciousness. For this, Otto Scharmer himself offers courses available for free and online.

The 3 Divides of Otto Scharmer: with nature, with one another and with the self. Shared by Lourenço Bustani in the Fractal course, about the new protagonists of communication

Lu Couto, entrepreneur and philosopher, complemented the speech of Georgia:

“Theory U can seem both complex and very subjective, and philosophical at the same time. Attention to the importance of bringing this dimension into work is a great exercise. And the more people are drawing outside the traditional models, the more it makes sense that we do not know how to do it. Otto Scharmer talks about three very current disconnections: from people with ourselves, from people with other people and from our disconnection from the world. He will work on raising awareness of these three disconnections and how we are reconnecting and resensitizing ourselves to get somewhere. The effort of descent and depth has much of what TORUS proposes in these studies: trying to read the subtle issues that lie behind each theme. The diving is very beautiful, enriching and full of tools.”

The book Reinventing Organizations

This new way of thinking about work involves a collective effort to reinvent the organizations themselves, as the title of the book by researcher Frederic Laloux says. Be an agent in the emergence of a new management paradigm, a radically more integral way with the sensibility and the world around, with purpose and therefore much more powerful for (re) structuring and managing companies and organizations.

Tools and knowledge that propose to work on a perspective of completeness. A way to move from an egosystem (focused on the US) to an ecosystem (focused on the whole), to precisely understand the whole: a human being as part of a more general system, he is also an element of nature.

One of Georgia’s tips was Integral Life, which offers courses with this more holistic vision of mind, heart, and work skills.

Sarah Brito and Morena Mariah remind us how much of this idea of ​​a more integral and ecosystem perspective is also present in cultural systems that are not usually recognized:

Sarah: “And as in this process it is important to have contact with other forms, other points of view, other places of speech, because you can see in other practices other cultural or identity dynamics that already have an ecosystem perspective and that often these dynamics has no place in this corporate or mainstream world. How can we use these tools to bring other knowledge and action closer together? What could corporations learn from traditional communities, for example, other management and self-management dynamics?”

Morena: “An African anthropologist named Cheik Anta Diop, who talks about the African cultural cradle, tells how the mentality of abundance is an already traditional mentality in African culture. In fact: how can we extract these technologies from these traditional cultural cradles, these knowledges and learning that are already there and not being observed? There is a whole different potential that can be used as a tool for change in organizations. Knowledge within favelas, for example, can transform people’s lives.”

Our meeting, focused on these tools and thoughts of transformation, also sought to reflect on the figure of the professional responsible for the method and the provocation of change. That is, the importance of the figure of the consultant, facilitator (or other names that can be given to this external agent), which must be understood, however, as a partner. It is important that a relationship of partnership and trust be established, that it will be given by help and interest in change.

Victoria Haidamus: “This idea of ​​partnership is based much more on the question: ‘What problem can you help that person solve?’ Much more important than what you are is what you can do for the person”

If we could conclude this meeting with one point, it would be that any journey of change in organizations also deals with a personal journey, in that it places us as part of a whole. It is an evolution of awareness both of individual bodies and of brands and companies.

Participants of the meeting (from left to right, from top to bottom): Felipe Meres, Gustavo Nogueira, Lu Couto, Leticia Pozza, Georgia Cunha, Victor Hugo Barreto, Morena Mariah, Victoria Haidamus and Sarah Brito.

See more Sandglass learnings here

We are the TORUS, a global movement based in São Paulo and Amsterdam, which promotes changes in organizational cultures, as well as a cultural awakening in society.

We develop experimental and proprietary methodologies based on translating and sharing relevant knowledge about the transformations necessary for our time.

Together with a network of partners and experts around the world, we invest in original studies and the development of a safe space for learning and exchange, as social infrastructures necessary to the world today.


Estudos do Tempo (Time Studies)


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Estudos do Tempo (Time Studies)



Estudos do Tempo (Time Studies)

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