12: The group makes together

Session 12: April 20

The group makes together

From prototypes to probes; from planning to experimenting and the power of theatre

When we work with physical or digital materials — things we can manipulate directly — we are accustomed to using prototypes to move a concept from early idea to its final form through a process of iteration. But working with social “materials” is different. We cannot affect relationships, beliefs, and social patterns directly. To work in social complexity we must employ “probes:” experiments within a set of boundaries, done in such a way that we can tell whether they attract people to a new, beneficial pattern of behavior, relationship, belief and/or communication. In this session we will introduce this concept, and briefly practice working with it.

Looking at “change” from a developmental point of view, we see that humans are both who they are in their current role and who they are becoming. From a theatre perspective, all the world is a stage and all the men and women merely enacting their roles. Theatre methods helps us become aware of the roles we assume, for so much of it is implicit. It then it provides a safe and playful atmosphere to try on different roles, mindsets and postures. The theatre space creates the lab in which we can experiment safely with whom we are becoming and rehearse more generative ways of being.

Lecture and activities

  • Activity: Practice using the concept of “Probes” and distinguishing them from prototypes
  • Lecture: Perform and pretend to become – an introduction to theatre methods and their power to discover and enact the new.
  • Activities: Sample one or two theatre methods

Key concepts

  • Embodied self, social body
  • Probe, and portfolio of safe-to-fail probes
  • Attractors, beneficial and negative
  • Systemic complacency

Required materials


Optional materials

Surf for more understanding of Theory U. The Presencing Institute’s web site is a place to start. 

Otto Scharmer, Theory U: leading from the future as it emerges


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