Social Presencing Practice and Research

Future Possibility of a Challenge Revealed

The Group Stuck is a mindful group embodiment and sensing exercise which makes visible the current reality and emerging future of an individual challenge. It is part of a series of Social Presencing practices.  The benefit of the exercise is to gain insight on the future possibility of this challenge.

In this article, I share a video that showcases a group stuck exercise I led. Find the explanation of how the group stuck exercise unfolds below the video.

Sensing Into The Emerging Future

Before the start of this video, Michelle Moore has embodied the felt sense of a personal challenge she is facing.  Note that the challenge is not articulated verbally to the rest of the group. She embodied the challenge by allowing a sculpture to arise in her body, representing the current reality of her challenge.

She then invited three people to physically exaggerate the felt sense of this challenge.  The challenge is referred to as a “Stuck”. Michelle invited them to physically exaggerate the sticking forces of the “Stuck”.  Sticking forces are physical parts of the Stuck (such as a lowered head) which are physically holding the body in its current state.  In the first video frame you can see the three people pushing down on a shoulder, the low back, stepping on one foot, etc.

The Collective Body Has Wisdom

The video begins with the three people sensing into the emerging future of Michelle’s stuck.  As a group, all four people collectively lean into the Stuck, allowing a felt sense of the emerging future state to arise in the collective body.  This happens when all participants are cultivating a mindful awareness of the Earth body, their own individual body and the social body (all four people together).  They allow movement to arise in the body, into the future state, without thinking or deciding what that future state should be. Here it is the collective body that has wisdom and reveals the future possibility of the Stuck.

Up until this point, the exercise is done in silence.  Once all participants have landed in the emerging future state, each person makes a statement from the “I” voice such as, “I can see the sky now” or “I am looking upwards and my feet feel strongly rooted to the Earth.”

The participants can further debrief on insights arising by journaling answers to questions such as, “What did you notice, what surprised you?”

How to Model a Workplace of the Future – Through the Social Body

Four Months. 300+ Teams. One Transformation Lab.

This is the first in a series of writings on ET Group’s (ETG) journey through MIT*’s Presencing Institute hosted Societal Transformation Lab (s-lab).  ET Group is an organization that has provided collaborative technology solutions for over 40 years. Now they are on an evolutionary journey to help solve key organizational challenges by weaving people, space, and technology together, unleashing human and organizational potential.   The s-lab is a four month program bringing together 300+ teams across the world. Each team applies Theory U methods and tools to prototype a project they care deeply about, collectively.  

Shaping an Intention to Transform the Workplace of the Future

The intention ETG’s s-lab is, “to nourish the evolution of organizations to meet complex challenges by prototyping the social and digital into the physical to inspire collaboration.”  ETG is prototyping a social-digital-physical workplace of the future on themselves, and sharing that journey with the world.


The ETG’s s-lab was born in Toronto on November 22, 2018 during a company visioning session in which team members used Social Presencing to model the world of work and workplace.  The group created a physical model with their bodies to depict a global workplace challenge they want to change.  The systemic challenge was framed as

Change in the world of work continues to speed up, while the WAY work happens, to a great extent is not moving forward.”  

Roles in the model included:

1) Highest Potential of the system
2) vulnerable stakeholder – employees
3) ETG as a whole
4) audio visual integrators
5) consulting firms
6) clients
7) technology.  

Participants Allow Feelings to Arise in the Physical Body

The Social Presencing exercise applied is known as 4D mapping.  The 4D map in this case was the world of work and workplace. Seven participants allowed the felt sense of the systemic challenge to arise in the physical body from the perspective of their role.  The remaining participants served as observers and space holders, mindfully holding intention and attention, in silence, during the exercise.

First, participants allowed the current state 4D map to arise.  Next, they physically exaggerated, or leaned into, the social sculpture and individual shapes that had formed, until the current state model transitioned into an emerging future state.  Observers and participants debriefed on the felt and seen experiences in the current state, the transitioning state and the emerging future state.

Getting out of the head and into the body

Getting “out of the head and into the body” allowed ETG to tap into collective wisdom.  Social Presencing is an insight practice ideally suited for innovation and systems change because it augments the intelligence of teams by surfacing that team’s inherent wisdom.

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”.

Uncovering Major Aha Moments

Thus, ETG’s 4D map exercise resulted in a deeply generative dialogue, with many diverse insights arising.  The major “aha’s” for the group were,

  • “We are so focused on the client we don’t see the employee.”
  • “The employee was so far away from the other stakeholders and facing away from the rest of the group.”
  • “Employees really want care, empathy, attention.”  
  • “Employees as individuals are key.”

New Insightful questions arose

  • “How do we bring the employees closer to other stakeholders?”
  • “How does the employee really feel about the workplace revolution?”
  • “Do we focus on the the client too much?”
  • “What’s the future that feels right for everyone?”

New Opportunities Became Clear

  • “The real opportunity  and need is with employees as people.”
  • “There is an opportunity to re-prioritize and reconnect/re-engage clients and staff/team.”

New Actions

In summary, ETG realized that there is imbalance in the amount of energy and attention towards clients vs. employees.  Employees feel that they left behind. Thus, the collective team decided to change that and created a project to innovate ETG’s own workplace of the future including its people, the space and technology.  At the same time, the Presencing Institute was launching its first Societal Transformation Lab. ETG’s application was accepted and it is now part of “a multi-local innovation journey for teams who are co‑shaping more sustainable and equitable social systems worldwide.”

Is your team stuck?

Organizations striving for social impact are often stuck. It comes with the territory of the sector.  A stuck in an organization is something a team is trying to create, change or innovate that is not moving forward.  Stucks reside in individual team members as well as in the activities and results the team is creating together.  

How can the team get unstuck?  Try non-thinking.

Use the collective physical body of the team for insight and innovation.  This method is called Social Presencing.  It is a body-based, experiential learning toolkit, developed by Arawana Hayashi and Otto Scharmer at the Presencing Institute, Sloan Business School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston.   It is a reflective practice, done collectively, applying mindfulness of body to tap into the collective wisdom of the team.

The Scottish Civil Service, Los Angeles School System and Eileen Fisher are examples of large organizations using Social Presencing for insight and systems change.

Try Social Presencing at the Toronto Practice Group, hosted by Michelle Moore at the Esther Myers Yoga Studio, 390 Dupont Street, Toronto (Annex).

  • Monthly on a Sunday, 7-9.30pm
  • Upcoming session is December 10, 2017
  • 2018 dates include: January 14, February 11, March 18, April 22, June 17

Radio Show: Illuminating the Blind Spot

Listen to Voice of America Business Channel with guest, Michelle N. Moore, MindEQuity founder, on the Chat with Chicules Radio Show, “Theory U:  Illuminating the Leadership Blind Spot”.

During the program, Michelle provides an overview of Theory U as a leadership tool that helps you not only lead through change but also create profound change. How can you not only impact the bottom line, but impact the triple bottom line? Regardless of your business goals, this method goes one step beyond traditional  management tools and begins to illuminate a leader’s blind spot…the things you cannot see…and the untapped potential for growth….

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