In the following section we will outline a few
examples of how a more comprehensive and adequate
approach—which takes into account the five major
aspects of quadrants, levels, lines, states, and
types—can offer fresh and innovative solutions
to major problems. Obviously, in this short space
we can only hint at the comprehensive nature of
the Integral approach, but hopefully enough to
suggest its possible importance.
Change Initiatives in Organizations: An Example
The Integral Approach has many practical applications.
It suggests that every transformational change
effort needs to address all five of the major
aspects of human beings. To do less than that
is to leave out crucial variables that will seriously
hobble effectiveness—whether the change effort
involves helping individuals, creating personal
meaning, addressing ecological issues, or managing
sound and effective government and business leadership.
These insights can be applied to peak organizational
as well as individual issues. Installing a new
systems or process initiative without assuring
an integrated balance of all relevant functions
is a recipe for underperformance and in some cases
disaster. Yet most leadership practices (in business,
government, ecology, education) leave out some
major aspect of human reality—they focus on
only one quadrant, or only one level, or only
one line, and so on—thus severely limiting their
This dangerous inadequacy returns to haunt the
proponents of these partial models, as their very
partialness tends to hobble truly effective change.
Let's give a few well-documented examples of how
such partialness can cripple business management
and leadership theories and practices.
We have seen that all human beings have access
to at least four major quadrants or dimensions:
"I" or intentionality, "we"
or culture, "it" or individual behavior,
and "its" or systems behavior. In practice
we find that most change agents (whether working
with individuals, groups, or organizations) tend
to focus on one of those quadrants at the expense
of the others.
For example, behavioral modification focuses
exclusively on the Upper-Right quadrant
by attempting to directly change personal behavior.
(In business, this includes such approaches as
Total Quality Management and Theory X). Although
they possess an important part of the puzzle of
effective change, such methods do not address
Upper-Left quadrant issues relating to individual
psychological development and values-based motivations.
Nor do they perform their interventions in the
context of a supporting culture (Lower-Left quadrant)
or organizational systems (Lower-Right quadrant).
In effect, they leave out three-fourths of the
factors required for a successful intervention.
Emotional intelligence training is one
example of the methods (such as "Theory Y")
that point out that productivity is often a product
of the emotional and subjective wellbeing of the
people involved. In other words, it focuses on
a particular line of individual development in
the Upper-Left quadrant, which can be very
helpful, but it leaves out crucial factors in
the other three quadrants (which usually return
to sabotage any real change).
Likewise, corporate and organizational culture
consultants focus on the Lower-Left quadrant,
pointing out that extensive research has shown
that much of an organization's performance depends
on cultural values in the organization itself—an
important piece of the integral puzzle, but one
that, by itself, leaves out vital factors in the
Systems theory experts and systems
managers focus on the networks of dynamic
flows of products and information in vast systems
of interaction. Again, this is another important
piece of the integral puzzle, but one that leaves
out the important interior dimensions of the I
and we domains (which usually return to sabotage
the system). In other words, systems experts tend
to work the Lower-Right quadrant, neglecting
or even excluding the other three. And so on.
What makes the Integral Approach so innovative
is that, by using a more comprehensive map employing
all four quadrants, the important contributions
of all of those methods can be incorporated into
a truly effective approach that covers all
the bases. Each of those methods is addressing
an important dimension of human existence, and
by seeing how each of them fits together into
a larger picture, they can all be used synergistically
to significantly enhance effectiveness.
Including All Quadrants, All Levels, All Lines
Let's give a specific example of this using one
of the quadrants—that of interior individual
development (the "I," or Upper-Left
quadrant). Dr. Robert Kegan of the Harvard Graduate
School of Education (and a founding member of
Integral Institute) is one of the world's leading
psychologists and a pioneer in applying developmental
theory to adult life and work challenges. In his
book In Over Our Heads, Kegan documents how modern
culture places implicit developmental demands
on the average citizen that extend beyond the
developmental levels that most other theorists
document in today's developmental literature.
Kegan identifies five developmental levels or
"orders of consciousness" that define
how a person knows the world or constructs reality.
The first three levels are similar to those found
in today's child and adolescent development texts:
impulsive (ages 2-6 yrs), egocentric (6-teens),
and socialized or conformist (teens and beyond).
Most adults (>80%) in developed nations reach
at least the conformist or 3rd order of consciousness,
where a person is able to internalize a value
system, understand and respect the needs of others,
and think abstractly.
In addition to the three commonly accepted stages
or orders of consciousness development, Kegan
adds two others—autonomous and integral. At the
autonomous or 4th order of consciousness, a person
becomes "self-authoring"—that is, they
become capable of constructing their own value
systems as opposed to operating within the value
systems given to them by their culture, family,
or place of work. And at an integral or 5th order,
they begin to bring together and synthesize many
different value systems into coherent and meaningful
The massive shift in the last 30 years from command-and-control
corporate cultures to decentralized organizations—where
business units, managers, and individual employees
are given greater and greater latitude to design
their own work in response to rapidly changing
market conditions—reflects an implicit demand
for 4th order consciousness in the workplace.
To illustrate this point, Kegan uses an example
of two managers—Peter and Paul. Peter is an
executive who has worked for Paul in the same
company for 15 years and has moved up in the organization
with Paul as Paul was promoted. Peter is characterized
as a highly competent 3rd order manager and Paul
a 4th order manager, with Paul initiating major
new lines of business and other "out-of-the-box"
ideas and Peter serving as a loyal lieutenant
who uses Paul as a mentor and sounding board for
all important decisions.
Paul, now a senior executive, gives Peter the
opportunity to run a fully independent spin-off
company of which the parent firm will own a majority
stake. In the spirit of full empowerment, Paul
makes it clear that all future decisions, from
marketing to sales to pricing, will be Peter's
to make and refuses to offer future advice on
these matters other than to set broad objectives
(e.g., profit) similar to those laid down by a
board of directors to a CEO.
Peter is then left to face alone the conflicting
demands of his sales force who resist being separated
from the parent company, the challenge of developing
an independent corporate identity with his sales
channels, and the challenge of transforming a
successful but conservative division into a entrepreneurial
stand-alone company. In the process of trying
to mediate these conflicting demands without Paul's
support, Peter literally finds himself "in
over his head" in meeting the 4th order tasks
set in front of him.
Kegan goes on to show how most popular management
theorists, either unfamiliar or dismissive of
an adult developmental approach, wrongly assess
Peter as having a skills or character deficit,
where in fact the issue is the complexity or order
of consciousness that Peter uses to construct
No amount of training or exhortation to self-empowerment
will help Peter if his fundamental frame of reference
is to work within an externally created value
system. Like water to fish, working within a received
frame of values is subject (implicit) rather than
object (explicit) to Peter's current order of
consciousness, and any attempt to help him construct
a culture for his new company must address this
vertical as opposed to merely horizontal developmental
Some leading-edge corporate training and research
organizations are incorporating vertical as well
as horizontal developmental models in their training
and leadership efforts. For example, the Center
for Creative Leadership has an ongoing research
effort focused on how skills training (e.g., delegation)
could be improved by customizing that training
according to the level of consciousness of the
person receiving the training. CCL has been working
directly with Kegan in this important area of
Using Kegan's subject/object assessment tool
(which requires about an hour of administration),
it is possible to gain a reasonable assessment
of a participant's order of consciousness and
provide that information to a trainer or skills
coach who can then tailor their training accordingly.
For example, working with a hypothetical manager
such as Paul, who operates from 4th order consciousness,
it would be possible to help train him on a variety
of delegation styles that would be optimized for
the level of development of his staff (e.g., more
structured with 3rd order, less so with 4th order
employees). In this sense a vertical developmental
perspective is not only more targeted and effective,
it honors a deep and important dimension of diversity
in the workplace that has been largely ignored
or addressed indirectly in an ad-hoc fashion.
Why is that important? Kegan has given a superb
example of why and how levels or stages of consciousness
are an important factor in any effective change
and transformation in business. The existence
of stages or levels of consciousness is, of course,
one of the five major aspects addressed by
the Integral method, and Kegan has clearly
demonstrated why taking this variable into account
is crucial in any effective transformation.
Let's give one last example, this time focusing
on lines of development. An Integral model points
out that there are not just levels of development—as
outlined by Kegan—but that different human capacities
(or "lines") develop through those levels.
For example, there is cognitive development, emotional
development, spiritual development, interpersonal
development, and so on. A person can be highly
developed in one line—such as the cognitive—and
poorly developed in others—such as emotional intelligence,
interpersonal skills, or group dynamics.
Thus, Paul might reach a 4th order level of consciousness
in his thinking capacity, but only a 2nd order
level of moral development. That is, he is very
smart, but rather ruthless and unethical. Or perhaps
somebody is well developed in the aesthetic or
artistic line, but not well developed in the interpersonal
line—the standard "bad boy artist,"
The idea of "levels and lines"—the
notion that a person can be highly developed in
some lines, medium in others, and poor in yet
others—becomes crucially important, for example,
when it comes to business leadership. Is the individual
leader an "integral leader," well developed
in many important lines? Or does he or she excel
in one line (such as cognitive brilliance) and
yet lag in others (such as interpersonal skills),
so that the advances made in some areas are all
but wiped out by the damage caused in others?
An integral coach or trainer could help this person
spot which areas need development in order to
become an even more effective and successful leader.
Perhaps the foregoing examples are enough to
suggest that an Integral Approach to leadership
(in business, politics, ecology, education) would
include a comprehensive perspective covering all
the major bases. Are all the quadrants being included
in the assessment and suggested interventions?
Are all the developmental stages and levels being
included? Are all the important developmental
lines and capacities being engaged? (As well as
all states and types of consciousness?)
Approaching any problem with a more comprehensive
perspective can be expected to dramatically improve
its chances of success, and such a comprehensive
or "touch-all-the-bases" approach is
central to the Integral ideal.