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Defining a student’s relationship to the final degree project thanks to Theory U.

Defining a student’s relationship to the final degree project thanks to Theory U.

The objective of Theory U

Accompanying change using creativity and facilitating the decision-making process using collective intelligence are the objectives of Theory U.

It therefore proves very useful to new fifth year students when it comes to implementing their final degree project (FDP). How to get to grips with it? How to finalize it? Where to start? What is my relationship to the FDP?
It was this last question in particular that students had the chance to explore thanks to a 2-day training course on Theory U led by Laurence Taconné and Pierre Paris.

Theory U: a journey of presence towards the self, others and the world

Formulated by Otto Scharmer, Theory U accompanies organizational and social change through a process of collective creativity. Through the various steps of the U (co-initiating, co-observing, co-sensing, presencing, crystallizing, prototyping and deploying), this process leads to decision-making based on human beings, their deepest resources, and the meaning we want to give our contribution in the long-term.
It consists of a process of accompanying change based on the present and on a vision of a better future, in order to free oneself from past patterns of behavior and to bring forth the new into the world.
Because it attaches great importance to the quality of individual and collective presence, this process creates the conditions for the development of collective intelligence and the establishment of a culture of innovation and cooperation in organizations. Trainers in this theory, Laurence Taconné and Pierre Paris, facilitators in collective intelligence, were able to test this method on 20 second year students, all volunteers, from the cycle master Management du design et de l’innovation en apprentissage (MDI) program. Over two days (6 and 21 September), these students collectively questioned their relationship to the FDP, the culmination of their training.

Theory U applied to students on the Design and innovation management apprenticeship program

Drawing the line that goes from the intention of the final degree project (FDP) to its implementation.

This approach applies particularly to innovation while at the same time helping people reflect upon their “internal condition”, their own relationship to the FDP. The choice of these students was no coincidence: all doing apprenticeships in a company, they have already gained professional maturity and are capable of making a field-based comparison. The training is also more focused on innovation management – so here the idea was to introduce them to a new theory of project management, focused on the emerging future.
In the course of this 2ème année du cycle master, "traditional” lessons gave way to preparation for the final degree project (FDP). The project crystallizes all the professional skills acquired and can be undertaken in the context of a partnership with a company and/or research laboratory of a partner university. It is presented to the final jury who thus validate part of the degree. It is therefore critical and its implementation must be carefully carried out.

The purpose of Theory U applied to students is to explore the line that goes from the current feel of their project, in all its complexity, to plunge into the vision (the dream) they may have of their FDP and to come back with new inspiration that will influence the implementation of the project, immediately and in the future.
The starting point is thus opening up the senses to perception, in order to summon the power of the imaginary and translate it into a real, tangible strategy.
The first day of the seminar looked at the experience and image of the students’ ideal, optimum FDP, through group activities (engaging in a dialogue with their FDP, chatting in an informal context, being able to present their project to others, co-creating a group model, walking towards their vision then illustrating it), assuming that dreams are the energy that encourages audacity.
The second day gave students the chance to put theory into practice with other exercises (discussing their dream, visualizing the path which leads to it, sensing how to include resistance, declaring the project’s intention by lining up head/heart/body, proposing immediate action, exchanging offers of help and needs) which helped them crystallize their inspirations and identify possible ways to initiate action based on their dream.


Implementation: “me in the project”

These two days of training allowed the students to "find themselves in the project”, “navigate”, “choose the right opportunity”, “get perspective/see the bigger picture" and therefore define their future actions while at the same time defining themselves. As one of the students so nicely put it, it was a question of “taking a step sideways in order to move forward faster,” or " the art of the practical detour”.
By sharing their difficulties with the group and thinking together about the resources they could use to help overcome these obstacles, the students gained confidence and adopted new strategies to manage their FDP. Individual anxiety about not knowing how to start the project was replaced by the satisfaction of carrying out and successfully completing an action.
The group’s team spirit was also boosted: they expressed the desire to set up a forum where students can see everyone’s FDP (complete with obstacles and achievements) and then work together to help develop each other’s projects. A stimulating experience which helped many students plot their route from dream to reality…