Ridding Ourselves of Trumpism Will Mean Leaning Into Disruption
Otto Scharmer in Conversation with Andrew Keen on Keen On
The coronavirus pandemic is dramatically disrupting not only our daily lives but society itself. This show features conversations with some of the world’s leading thinkers and writers about the deeper economic, political, and technological consequences of the pandemic. It’s our new daily podcast trying to make longterm sense out of the chaos of today’s global crisis.
On today’s episode, theorist and author Otto Scharmer discusses the impulses behind turning away and turning toward emerging possibilities.
From the episode:
Andrew Keen: To begin, Otto, what exactly is a blind spot? You have this wonderful visual in your Medium piece of what blind spots are. So, this is not just a throwaway term. You’ve obviously given the notion of a blind spot some deep thinking.
Otto Scharmer: A blind spot can be our habitual way of seeing things as one way when in reality they also could be another way. I think particularly in 2020, it has been said many times we live in a moment of disruption. It’s particularly a collective and global experience, it has been this year. What does disruption really mean? Generally, it means the future is going to be different from the past. Something is changing. So, whenever disruption happens, there are two different ways I can respond. One is turning away, and the other is turning toward.
Turning away is basically a freeze reaction of the human mind. Closing the mind, closing the heart, closing of the will, aka ignorance, hate, and fear. So, from the phrase Make America Great Again, the most important word is the last word, “again,” because it means we are orienting ourselves back to a time that has already passed. So, that’s one way of responding. And it’s not necessarily an evil intention or something, but it is a reaction that is based on the freeze reaction, maybe a self-protection of the mind, because what’s coming our way is too much.
The other way of responding to disruption is turning toward. Turning toward, we are leaning into an emerging future that we don’t even know what it really is. And the only way of doing it is by opening the mind, aka curiosity; opening the heart, aka empathy, compassion; and opening the will, which is the capacity of courage.
So in that way, in a moment when we have this conversation where we all have the hope that we are at the tail end not only of the period of Trump but also the period of Trumpism, that the deepest capacity that we have to develop to really move not only beyond Trump but also beyond Trumpism is the capacity to cultivate our resources of curiosity, compassion, and courage. Because it is the foundation of responding to a disruption in a way that is not going back to a time, that’s not based on turning away and freezing, but it’s based on leaning into an emerging future possibility that we need to embrace and that requires us to let go and let come. Let go of what? Let go of everything that isn’t essential and also let go of the past. And letting come means connecting with emerging future possibilities that we really feel some resonance with.
Otto Scharmer is a Senior Lecturer in the MIT Management Sloan School and co-founder of the Presencing Institute. He chairs the MIT IDEAS program for cross-sector innovation and introduced the concept of “presencing”—learning from the emerging future—in his bestselling books Theory U and Presence (the latter co-authored with P. Senge et al). He is co-author of Leading from the Emerging Future, which outlines eight acupuncture points for transforming capitalism. His most recent book, The Essentials of Theory U, summarizes the core principles and applications of awareness-based systems change.