Basketball presencing

Why Social Presencing?

This is a continuation of the June 11, 2019 post, Social Presencing – A Practice for Tapping into Collective Wisdom.

Why might organizations utilize Social Presencing?

Social Presencing offers teams access to a another type of knowing, accessible by tapping into the physical, embodied world of an organization, comprised of human beings in their bodies.  This is also known as the social field.

“The social field is the quality of relationships that give rise to patterns of thinking, conversing, and organizing, which in turn produce practical results.” ~ Otto Scharmer (Scharmer, 2018, p. 14)

Basketball and other athletic teams are adept at sensing the social field. In organizations, teams typically emphasize intelligence. Social Presencing provides access to wisdom, augmenting intelligence or analytic knowing.

Analytic and Primary Knowing

Too much thinking, talking, and messaging is the norm. In the Western world, linear, analytical thinking dominates. Bill George, Harvard Senior Fellow, emphasized this during an interview in the documentary film Innsaei, The Power of Intuition,

“In the last 20-25 years of my life we have seen the dominance of rational thought. It’s dominated a lot of our academic institutions, the media, and it’s taken away from the capacity to advance intuitive skills. Now for the first time we are starting to realize that problems are not getting any better. We have to step back and take a whole new approach to these problems. One of the challenges we have recently had in business is by going to the fully rational side and by focusing everything on near term measurement, analytical tools, we have ground out or expunged creativity from our companies and 100 billions dollars are being wasted.” (George, 2016).

Social Presencing offers access to creativity via primary knowing as defined by cognitive psychologist Eleanor Rosch who introduced the articulation of two types of knowledge or knowing, one analytic, the other primary.

“The problem is that most of us have spent our lives immersed in analytic knowing, with its dualistic separation of subject and object. There’s nothing wrong with analytic knowing. It’s useful and appropriate for many activities…..but if it’s our only way of knowing, we’ll tend to apply it in all situations.” ~Peter Senge (Senge, 2004, p. 99)

“Primary knowing characterizes a sensing and presencing type of cognition in which one is said to know by means of interconnected wholes (rather than isolated contingent parts) and timeless, direct presentation (rather than through stored re-presentations). Such knowing is open rather than determinate.” (Scharmer, 2009, p.167)

Through Social Presencing, organizations are enabled to tap into the collective wisdom of their teams. Wisdom here refers to “primary knowing” discussed above.

Unearthing Highest Potential

Further, Social Presencing offers an approach opposite to the typical surface level approach to change.  Often, a problem is recognized in the mind and a voice of judgement, fear or cynicism arises, criticizing another team member or dismissing the issue as impossible.

The highest potential in a situation is not able to reveal itself in this case. Social Presencing goes below the surface to unearth highest potential resulting in new information used to guide teams in decisions and actions. (Hayashi, 2017)


Photo Credit: Joel Muniz, Unsplash