The 5-step U Theory

The 5-step U Theory


Theory U was developed in the 70s and 80s by Otto Scharmer of MIT and a group of colleagues such as Joseph Jaworski, Adam Kahane, etc. It is based on research carried out with leaders to design and conduct collective learning processes.

  • It is an inner journey whose key is "Presencing": a state of heightened attention to connect with the deepest source of one's self and to change one's habitual way of functioning. It is a time of letting go, of listening, of opening one's mind, heart and will.
  • It is an awareness of the level of attention from which one operates, to decide to change it, in order to create a new future (Einstein: "A problem created cannot be solved by thinking in the same way it was created").
  • It is a journey in 5 U-shaped steps.


  • REPRODUCE: Reactivation of your past patterns: seeing the world through your habits of thought.

  • DEPLOYER: Obtenir des résultats par des pratiques, des infrastructures.
    • Incarner le projet nouveau.
    • Déployer le nouveau dans les pratiques et les infrastructures, à grande échelle.
    • 1. Observe: Listening and dialogue phase.

    • Create a space to wipe out the past.
    • Suspend the voice of judgement to access the intelligence of thought (open mind). Viewing reality with fresh eyes.
    • Directing attention to the best potential future.
    • 2. Feeling: Cognitive resources meeting phase

    • Be attentive and open to your environment.
    • Listen to others and learn from their visions.
    • Listen to what might enrich your questioning and sharpen your decision.
    • Connect to your "little inner voices" and meet your analytical, compassionate and intuitive resources.
    • Silencing the voice of cynicism to access emotional intelligence (open heart).
    • Have an open mind, an open heart, and an open will.
    • 3. Presencing: Connecting to your deepest self, to who you are

    • Silencing fear to access your true desires, "your gut". Letting go. - Finding the inner place, the place of silence, the state of attention and awareness to connect with the deepest source of your self, the source of inspiration.
    • Allowing your hidden resources, your intuition or deep knowing (image of Russian dolls) to emerge from what you are experiencing, and what you are intuiting.
    • 4. Crystallise: Phase of commitment to goals and outcomes

    • Crystallise vision and intention.
    • Make the emerging future concrete.
    • Define the first steps to make it happen.
    • 5. Prototype: Small-scale testing phase

    • Prototype, act to create and realise what has emerged.
    • Adapt the plan to reality by analysing what worked and what didn't, and what needs to be readjusted.
    • To do this, access the intelligence of the head (which reasons), the heart (which decides on the action) and the hand (which acts).
  • DEPLOY: Achieving results through practices, and infrastructure.

-Embody the new project.

-Deploy the new practices and infrastructures, on a large scale.

NB: Theory U is not a mechanical, linear process with sequential steps. It functions as a whole, a matrix in which the stages interact with each other. However, for practical reasons of description, it is interesting to break down the steps.