Hands are stuck

An Intro to Social Presencing Exercises: Applied

This is part of a series on Social Presencing. Find other posts here:

June 11, 2019 post, Social Presencing – A Practice for Tapping into Collective Wisdom
June 18, 2019 post Why Social Presencing?
July 3, 2019 post The Principles Applied in SPT
August 28, 2019 post Intro Into Social Presencing: Preparatory

I described the four preparatory exercises that are part of the main Social Presencing or SPT toolkit in this article.  The next four exercises that are comprised in the full eight exercises of the SPT toolkit are called APPLIED exercises. Variations of these exercises exist and a core SPT team at the Presencing Institute is prototyping new exercises and tools.

Applied Social Presencing Exercises

The following four exercises are useful for practical application in an organizational context for insight and innovation. For the group exercises described below, a facilitator guides the group through the exercises and facilitates the spoken reflections.

The Stuck Exercise

Stuck is a silent mindful embodiment and sensing exercise, practiced individually and in groups, which takes participants from a current reality to an emerging future in the physical individual or social body. The entire Theory U process is experienced.  Length of time varies greatly. Stuck is the core SPT exercise. 4D Mapping, Case Clinic and Seed Dance are variations of Stuck.

Hands are stuck

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A Stuck is something a group or individual is trying to create, change or innovate which is not moving forward.   Stuck is not a problem and “you are not your stuck”. Stuck is not sustainable in any system. It will eventually emerge to a future state.  It is part of the creative process and can be a gold mine of information. Every individual and every group has many stucks.

In this exercise, participants can generate new insights fast which inform decisions and actions.  The Stuck reveals the creative process. Participants can release the same mind-sets or frames of reference which created the Stuck in the first place.  They are able to unearth blind spots, suspend the problem-solving habit and gain access to primary knowing. The group is able to build trust in the body’s knowing and tap into collective wisdom, gaining broader perspectives.

The key practice in Stuck is that participants suspend habitual problem-solving. Instead, they sense deeply into current reality using the body’s intelligence. They focus on physical, felt sensations rather than emotions or analysis.

There are two ways to practice Stuck, applying an individual or personal stuck or engaging group members amplify and inform the individual Stuck by forming a group Stuck.

Individual Stuck

In the Individual Stuck, groups of 3-5 people form seated circles.  Each participant writes down a Stuck from their own work or career. This is not shared with anyone in spoken or written form.

Man sitting in nature

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Participants reflect on the current state felt sense of the Stuck in their body.  The stuck feeling comes into the body as a physical shape or gesture, forming sculpture 1, the current state (SC1).  One by one, each person in the group makes their Stuck shape concrete and visible in the space of the group.

After each group member has shown their SC1 shape to the group, each person shares an experience about another person’s Stuck with the group, without analysis, focusing on a) what they physically saw (for example, “I saw your head go down” or b) what they physically felt in their own body (for example, “When I saw your Stuck, I felt a cramp in my stomach.”)  No one speaks about their own Stuck.

Next, each person repeats their SC1, without the spoken reflection afterwards.  Then they exaggerate the shape or lean into it. After pausing, the participant waits for their body to decide when and how the shape moves.  The shape keeps moving until it decides to stop, arriving in sculpture 2, the emerging future state of the Stuck (SC2). There are three parts to every Stuck, i.e. SC1, the transition from SC1 to SC2 and SC2. After everyone has completed their SC2, the spoken reflection from above is repeated.  The three experiences of SC1, the transition, and/or SC2 are shared.

Group Stuck

Now the group practices in the social body. Six to eight people form seated circles and sit for two minutes to sense the social body of the group.  There are two options for a Group Stuck. In option A, one person volunteers to embody their individual SC1 again. Option B applies if the group is a real team, working together on common goals. The group writes down a shared Group Stuck on a flip chart and hangs it on the wall nearby.  One person volunteers to embody their felt sense of the shared Group Stuck.

Group of people

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Next, applicable to A or B above, the volunteer instructs half of the other group members to be the sticking forces of their Stuck, to emphasize, exaggerate that Stuck.  For example, they may say, “Judy, please stand in front of me, close enough to block my vision. Bob, please push down on my head.” Once all the sticking forces are in place, SC1 has formed.  The other half of the group observe, mindfully holding the space.

The social body in SC1 exaggerates the Group Stuck, together, allowing the social body to decide when the shape moves.  When the shape stops moving, the group sculpture has arrived in SC2. This is the emerging future state of the Stuck. The volunteer does not move first to avoid giving directions to the social body.

Both participants and observers repeat the reflection described in Individual Stuck above.  They speak distinctly about experiences of SC1, the Transition, and/or SC2. In addition, they discuss differences between SC1 and SC2, the shape and the movement.  The group also generates dialogue around the following questions. “Where did movement being in the social body? What literally, physically happened? What insights or new questions arose? What ideas for prototypes emerged?  (Hayashi, Presencing Institute, 2018)

4D Mapping

This a mindful group embodiment and sensing exercise, using the social body to “map” or “make visible” the current reality and highest aspiration (potential future state) of a social system such as school system, health care system, government, cell phone market, fashion industry, etc.  Group size is ideally 16 or more. Time is 1-2 hours. 4D refers to the three dimensions of the human body plus the emerging future as the fourth dimension.

Participants can generate new insights fast. They may see something significant which was not visible in the system before, including leadership blind spots.  These insights inform decisions and actions. Participants see their own creative process and practice releasing old patterns, mind-sets or frames of reference.  Practitioners suspend the problem-solving habit to gain access to primary knowing and tap into collective wisdom. Teams gain the benefits of broader perspectives and the ability to build trust in the social body’s knowing.

Woman spreading arms

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In advance of the exercise, the facilitator guides the client in the definition of eight to ten stakeholder roles in the system. The roles of Earth, Highest Potential (of the system) and representation from the most vulnerable, marginalized group in the system (for example, children) are always included.  The facilitator writes name of each role on a large sticker or card (string attached or taped) so that it is easily affixed to the body of the stakeholder. The cards with the roles are organized starting with most powerful role on top. The facilitator also helps the client define the system Stuck in advance along with a brief narrative (case) about the Stuck in the system and the stakeholder roles.  The client or designated team member describes the situation at the beginning of the exercise. A volunteer scribe is identified to help during the exercise. The scribe documents statements and insights.

At the start of the exercise, 8-10 stakeholders (players) volunteer to embody a stakeholder role.  The remaining participants are mindful observers (space-holders). Observers sit in a circle, leaving enough space for the stakeholders to move around easily inside the circle.  The case giver briefly describes the situation and the stakeholder roles (10 minutes maximum.)

The first activity in the exercise is co-initiation.  The facilitator guides the entire group through a mindfulness of body practice, seated, for about 2 minutes.  The following principles are reinforced: Avoid acting out preconceived ideas, beliefs, concepts about the system.  Allow system shifts to surface and notice their qualities. Allow movement to emerge in the social body. Avoid manipulation or moving the way you think it should be.

Woman in sunflower flied

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The second activity is co-sensing.  The facilitator displays the card with the most powerful stakeholder role on it and invites a volunteer to embody that role in the 4D map. (Volunteers cannot embody roles they play in real life.)  The player affixes the card to their body so it is visible to everyone. The player embodies the current state of their role as a shape in the space. Roles can sit, stand, lie down, choose the direction and proximity of the body to others.  The role speaks a sentence from the “I” voice. This is repeated until all stakeholders are on the map. All are invited to make final adjustments to their position. SC1 has arrived.

The third activity is co-presencing. Players rest in stillness, letting go of outcomes, and allow the next movements to arise.  These movements represent the emerging future state.

Finally, the group starts crystallizing. Players continue to allow movement to arise in their bodies until SC2 has formed which can take several minutes.  In SC2, each player states an emerging future sentence in the “I” voice. Observers are also invited to make a statement.

As a reflection, players and observers engage in generative dialogue around the seen and felt sense of experience of the movements in SC1, the Transition, SC2.  They share their experiences related to sense of space, time, self and other. Participants answer the questions, “What top 3 features of the map changed?”, “What next steps will you take as a result of this experience?” “What ideas for prototypes emerged?”  (Hayashi, Presencing Institute, 2018)

Case Clinic

This is a mindful group embodiment and sensing exercise, using the social body to generate insight on a leadership challenge or a question.  Peers or team members are coaches to assist a case giver in a non-hierarchical manner. Three to six people can participate. Time is typically 1-1.5 hours.  In this exercise, participants develop new approaches to responding to the leadership challenge or question, accessing the wisdom of the group to help respond to an immediate challenge.

Rope around a tree

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First, the case giver takes 15 minutes to describe the situation and his/her intention about the future they are trying to create.  Then the group sits in stillness for two to three minutes. Each coach shares a shape which embodies the current situation based on what they heard.  Then a group sculpture is formed starting with SC1, then transitioning to SC2. The case giver observes. After SC2, coaches describe their experiences in the movement.  The key is that coaches do not give advice or try to “fix” the challenge. Rather, they listen deeply with the body and reflect.

Generative dialogue begins with the case giver’s reflection about the shapes and movements and states, “Seeing myself from outside, what touched me, resonated with me was….The new questions arising are…..”  Coaches reflect on the case giver’s remarks and offer observations, new perspectives on the situation. (Hayashi, Presencing Institute, 2018)

Seed Dance

This is a mindful group embodiment and sensing exercise, using the social body to bring a person’s future vision into practice through creative expression, resulting in concrete next steps.  The group size is four to five people. Timing is one and a half to three hours.

Seed Dance

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Often ideas of what we want to create in world are muddled by hidden agendas, notions of success, etc., disabling our ability to answer to the question, “What is my real work?”  Seed Dance enables a practical answer.

In preparation, participants complete the Theory U, Field of the Future, forty-five-minute journaling exercise (not described in this chapter).  This journaling results in an articulation of a future vision. Participants take a silent walk for thirty to sixty minutes. Then, the following activities happen.

In Seed Dance, the group begins in the future state (SC2) and then embodies the current state (SC1).  This is the reversed approach of the Stuck and 4D Mapping exercises. First, participants practice mirroring.  Each person embodies their field of the future sculpture (SC2) in silence. Others mirror back the sculpture. The group allows a gap of non-movement between each sculpture.  The group has a short dialogue on the experience.

Next, the group forms a Field of the Future sculpture together (SC2-A).  One volunteer defines three to four elements that support their seed of the future (core team, location, funding, partners, other.)  The volunteer embodies their SC2 and invites people to embody one of the defined elements, instructing them where in the space, at what level, in what shape and in what direction they face.  The group holds SC2 and then sits back down.

Then the groups forms a current reality sculpture together (SC1).  The volunteer embodies SC1 and places the others as elements into the current state sculpture.  SC1 is held in silence and the group continues to hold the shape, sensing the social body and allowing movement to arise until a Field of the Future group sculpture arrives (SC2-B).  This future state may be the same as before (in SC2-A) but is likely more articulate the second time. Each person speaks a statement from the “I” voice.

Participants engage in generative dialogue via the following questions: “What were differences in relationship of the elements in Field of the Future vs. current reality?”  “Where did movement begin?” “What surprised you?” “What did you learn?” “What seed(s) of your future did you see in the sculpture?” “How is your future intention clarified going forward?” “What next steps related to any or all of the elements will you take?” (Hayashi, Presencing Institute, 2018)