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Applying the Integral Method to Organizational Change Initiatives

The Integral approach is sometimes called AQAL (pronounced ah-qwal), short for "all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states, all types." It is also called an Integral Operating System (IOS), using a computer analogy, because once IOS is installed, you can run any applications software on it that you want (i.e., applications to organizational issues; leadership development; political, health, and environmental problems; personal psychological and spiritual transformation, and so on.)

The IOS simply checks to make sure that you are including all of the major dimensions of human existence in order to insure that whatever program you are running is as comprehensive, effective, and productive as it can possibly be—not because this is an "outside" philosophy, but because it is one that engages the potentials already present in each and every human being in the most positive fashion.

IOS can therefore serve as an invaluable tool to practitioners in their assessment and creation of a change initiative in virtually any area. The Integral Approach does not herald the development of yet another set of models and techniques that claim to solve all business problems. Instead, the Integral Approach contextualizes and shows the interrelationships between existing and future assessment and change management tools, helping practitioners call on those best for the situation at hand, leading to more effective, balanced, and sustainable change interventions. The Integral Approach to leadership in any area implies that there is no "one right way" of approaching change, but that all tools need to be carefully brought to bear on crucial issues. It is the change practitioner, in particular, that is the vital link translating theory into effective action.

One of the most important roles the change practitioner plays is working in concert with the client to intelligently assess (from an integral perspective) the nature of the problems the client is facing, the current capacities of the organization in question, and the willingness of the client to engage in the work necessary to address the gap that may exist between the two.

Both the assessment and the suggested remedies can be most effectively conducted using the Integral Approach, which does not guarantee the outcome, but does guarantee that all capacities are being brought to bear on the issue in as comprehensive a fashion as possible. If there is a solution, the Integral Approach is therefore, by a wide margin, the one most likely to be its midwife.

Pioneering Applications of the Integral Approach

The specific applications of an Integral approach are many. Because the model was developed by a cross-cultural examination of the available capacities of human beings, an Integral Approach can be used to help facilitate virtually any human endeavor.

Our approach continues to be, in all ways, grounded in actual research, evidence, and data wherever possible. Therefore, one of the primary goals of I-I is to continue to support extensive research into specific problem areas and issues, in an attempt to learn more effectively how integral approaches can further help resolve many of the world's recalcitrant problems. This research is, and will continue to be, made available to any who wish to take advantage of it.

Specific research projects include:
Personal psychological and spiritual transformation
Global ecology
Integral business and organizational practices
Integral medicine
World hunger/famine
Education (in first, second, and third-world settings) International politics
Integral city and community planning
Integral conflict resolution
Organizational development in general (IOS apps)
Personal transformation and Integral Transformative Practice

The details of these projects are now being developed by core teams in each of these areas. For this general overview, perhaps we could give a very brief outline of what these integral projects have in common: namely, each of them takes a particular problem area (e.g., ecology, education, medicine, international politics, personal transformation) and focuses on issues such as: What aspects of this problem have been ignored by traditional approaches? How can an integral analysis shed light on these neglected areas? By taking a more comprehensive and balanced approach, can we gather evidence and data showing (1) that and (2) how a more integral approach actually helps resolve these heretofore stubborn problems?

In ecology, for example, we have presented (at an Esalen conference on Integral Capitalism) a more integral analysis of how ecological problems can be approached using "all quadrants, all levels, all lines." Most ecological "solutions" focus merely on the exterior or "it" dimensions of the problem: we must limit carbon dioxide emissions, we must ban fluorocarbons, we must recycle wastes, we should use hypercars, and so on.

We do not deny the importance of such measures (which address the Lower-Right quadrant). But the Integral Approach goes one step further and asks: have we also looked at any changes that might be necessary in the interior dimensions (of the "I" and "we")? For example, using Kegan's model, the first thing we note is that "ecological awareness"—or an actual concern for global ecological issues—does not fully emerge until 5th order consciousness. In other words, unless a substantial number of world leaders themselves possess an integral framework, ecological issues will not receive the balanced attention they deserve.

The same goes for political, business, military, economic, and diplomatic issues and problems. In order to adequately assess global, widespread, and systematic problems, a leader must be able to think globally—to think in comprehensive, integral ways. The Integral approach helps with just that task, by offering a global map for a global world.

In international politics, for example, the exterior dimensions (the "it" and "its" quadrants) are being driven by economic factors, often focusing on global capitalism as it encounters local cultural realities (summarized in the popular book by Thomas Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree).

But that economic analysis focuses merely on the exterior dimensions. Samuel Huntington, in his influential The Clash of Civilizations, points out that much of the world's political dynamics is driven by the differences in cultural values, which he sees centered on nine major civilization blocks.

But Huntington analyzes those civilization blocks merely from a horizontal geopolitical location. A more integral approach would point out that many of those blocks are actually at different orders of consciousness (as researched by, e.g., Kegan).

Which of them is right? All of them—or so the Integral Approach would maintain. But to date, all of the major approaches to world economic and political dynamics have severely limited themselves by merely focusing on just a few quadrants, or just a few levels, or only a few lines, or perhaps some important types. But none of them have offered a framework that allows us to see how all of them have an important influence on the nature and function of international politics, business, military, and economic realities. Clearly they are all playing a hand in the final shape of the international situation, and the Integral Approach shows explicitly how they all fit together.

But beyond that, our specific research projects focus (in this case) on very particular areas—such as Iraq, Palestine, the Balkans, as well as inner-city America—in an attempt to determine the precise weight that each of the five major aspects of human existence contributes to these various problems (through both theoretical and practical analysis and assessment). And therefore what the most effective tactical and strategic interventions might be to help move the process forward toward some sort of resolution.

Likewise, in each of the other example areas, Integral Institute attempts to both advance our theoretical understanding of integral approaches, as well as design particular research and application cases. We design careful experimental research that can help not only prove, but disprove, any of our theoretical suggestions. If we are wrong in a particular area, we want to be the first to find out.

Experts in each of these areas—global business, international politics, ecology, medicine, conflict resolution, etc.—have been organized in order to plan and carry forward these specific research agendas. This is one of the primary goals of Integral Institute: research actual instances of an integral approach in action.

Needless to say, these are not merely theoretical issues, but ones that directly impact the future of humanity itself. One last, quick example: world hunger and famine. Most approaches to world hunger focus on the exterior dimensions in an attempt to find ways to produce more food and distribute it to more people. Again, we do not deny the importance of those measures (which address the Lower-Right quadrant).

But a more integral approach would also point out the following. As Nobel-Prize winning economist Amartya Sen demonstrated, famine has historically occurred only in non-democratic societies. Even in today's world, all famine occurs in non-democratic areas (one of the reasons for this, according to Sen, has to do with the necessity of unfettered information flow in order to effectively distribute food).

But, as research such as Kegan's has consistently demonstrated, democracy and democratic values emerge only with 4th order consciousness. It follows that a significant number of individuals must have access to 4th order consciousness in order to avert famine. That is, famine is not due primarily to a lack of food, but to a lack of consciousness development.

An Integral Approach takes all of those factors into account, especially when researching—and then designing solutions for—recalcitrant problems such as world hunger, political turmoil, cultural clashes, educational and medical deficiencies. The Integral approach does not advocate one particular value system over another, but simply helps leaders assemble the most comprehensive overview available, so that they can more adequately and sanely address the pressing issues now facing all of us.

Likewise with issues ranging from ecological sustainability to education for a global tomorrow, from personal transformation to integral spirituality, from integral law to integral transformative practice: by becoming an integrally informed individual in any of those areas, one can leave the world just a little bit more whole than one found it.

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