"inclusive, balanced, comprehensive." The Integral approach may be contrasted
to other methods—mythic, rational-scientific, pluralistic—which, as they
themselves announce, exclude other approaches as being inferior. They
are thus, by definition, partial and incomplete. These latter methods, although
widely accepted and dominant in the world's cultures, tend to generate partial
analysis and incomplete solutions to problems. As such, they appear less
efficient, less effective, and less balanced than the Integral approach.
Like any truly
fundamental advance, the Integral approach initially seems complicated but
eventually is understood to be quite simple and even straightforward. It's like
using a word processor: at first it is hard to learn, but eventually it becomes
incredibly simple to use.
The easiest way to
understand the Integral approach is to remember that it was created by a
cross-cultural comparison of most of the known forms of human inquiry. The
result was a type of comprehensive map of human capacities. After this
map was created (by looking at all the available research and evidence), it was
discovered that this integral map had five major aspects to it. By
learning to use these five major aspects, any thinker can fairly easily adopt a
more comprehensive, effective, and integrally informed approach to
specific problems and their solutions—from psychology to ecology, from business
to politics, from medicine to education.
What are these five
aspects? Technically they are referred to as "quadrants, levels, lines, states,
and types." Of course, unless one has already learned the "word processing
system," as it were, then these aspects won't make much sense. But they are
indeed very simple and easy to use once one gets the hang of it.
There is an
important point about these five aspects. Because the integral map that they
were drawn from was created by an extensive cross-cultural comparison of human
capacities, these five aspects appear to be potentials available to all human
beings. (We will see examples of this in a moment). Thus, the integral
approach does not ask a person to adopt anything that they do not already have
available to them. This is not some "outside" philosophy that people are asked
to believe, but a pointer to potentials that they already possess but perhaps
are not fully utilizing or expressing.
For example, one of
the five aspects—called quadrants—refers to the fact that all major human
languages have first-, second-, and third-person pronouns (for example: I,
you/we, and it). These three dimensions of reality (I, we, and it) often show up
as art, morals,
(or the aesthetic expression of “I,” the morals of “we,” and the objective “its”
of science)—the Beautiful, the Good, and the True is another version of these
If we realize that
"it" can appear in plural, or "its," then we have the "four quadrants" or
dimensions that are present in all major human languages: I, we, it, and its—or
the intentional, cultural, behavioral, and social dimensions of all human
Notice some of the
major and extremely influential modes of inquiry that are based in each of the
Upper Left: phenomenology, psychotherapy, meditation, emotional
intelligence, personal transformation
Upper Right: empiricism, scientific analysis, quality control, behavioral
Lower Left: multiculturalism, postmodernism, worldviews, corporate culture,
Lower Right: systems theory, social systems analysis, techno-economic modes,
communication networks, systems analysis
Which of those
approaches is right? All of them, according to Integral theory.
approach simply points out that these dimensions of reality are present in all
cultures, and therefore any truly comprehensive or integral approach would want
to touch bases with all of those important dimensions, because they are in
fact operating in people in any event, and if we do not include them in our
analysis, we will have a partial, fragmented, and broken approach to any
Likewise with the
other major aspects (levels, lines, states, and types). Most natural organisms
show a capacity for development—an acorn grows into an oak through various
levels or stages of growth. Human beings likewise show various stages of
growth, which can occur in many of their innate capacities or functions: humans
can evidence cognitive development, moral development, psychosexual development,
interpersonal development, and so on. In short, human beings seem to have many
developmental lines (cognitive, moral, psychosexual, etc.) that unfold in
various levels or stages of development—what we call levels and lines.
The Integral map
simply includes as many of these levels and lines as possible, because they seem
to be operating in people in any event, and taking them into account would thus
appear crucial in any truly comprehensive or integral approach to the world's
Finally, we have
"states" and "types." Types: there appear to be different types of
awareness. For example, one of the most commonly discussed is that of masculine
and feminine ways of knowing (where the masculine type appears to be more
autonomous and analytic, and the feminine type more relational and embodied).
The important point is: are we acknowledging and taking into account the fact
that there might be different types or ways of looking at a problem, or are we
trying to take one way and force it on others?
The same with
"states": Not only do human beings appear to have various types of
consciousness and various stages of consciousness, they also seem to have
many different states of consciousness. Many of the major states are
well-known—waking, dreaming, and sleeping, for example—and once again, these
major states are clearly potentials that are present in all human beings.
approach simply asks us to take all the known states into account when analyzing
why and how human beings act as they do. Just as many individuals might be
operating at different waves or stages of development and as different types, so
many might be operating from a different state. Taking all of these into
account will give us a much more accurate map of the terrain we are trying to
Thus, to briefly
summarize: the Integral approach looks at any problem—personal, social,
ecological, international—and attempts to identify all of the important
variables that are contributing to the problem in each of the five major domains
(quadrants, levels, lines, states, and types). A truly Integral approach might
draw equally on systems theory and meditation, technological innovations and
emotional intelligence, corporate culture and behavioral modification—the full
spectrum of potentials in all of the quadrants, all of the levels, all of the
lines, all of the states, all of the types.
approach thus elicits solutions that acknowledge and incorporate all of these
without excluding or denying any of them—because all of them are clearly
affecting the present situation and the problems being generated, and anything
less than a truly Integral approach might actually make matters worse, not
Absolutisms for More Effective and Balanced Solutions
By contrast, the
methods of the other major approaches now widely used—mythic-religious,
rational-scientific, and pluralistic—appear to have major biases built into
them, because they advance their truth as the only fundamentally correct
approach while condemning the others as inferior or even dangerous.
An obvious example
is the rational-scientific method in its exclusive form. It focuses
problem analysis (and solution) on systems and processes, and for the most part
excludes issues associated with individual meaning, aesthetics, and group
culture. Even systems theory, which claims to be "comprehensive" and
"all-inclusive," in fact privileges the "it" and "its" domains—and explicitly
denies irreducible reality to all of the "I" and "thou" and "we" domains of
aesthetics, morals, and culture. In other words, science and systems theory
absolutize their own favorite quadrants (the "it" and "its" dimensions).
pluralism often grants reality to the social or cultural dimension (we), but it
tends to deny any sort of objective reality. Pluralism tends to absolutize the
"we" dimension and deny reality to objective "it" and "its." All science is
therefore looked upon as a mere interpretation, much like poetry. But clearly,
a diamond will cut a piece of glass no matter what culture it appears in. In
other words, there are important objective truths (or "its") that need to be
honored if any enduring solutions to the world's problems are to be discovered.
Thus, the Integral
approach accepts the partial truths of both science and pluralism—they
are each correct when dealing with their own quadrant or dimension—but
denies that they alone have the only truth. By combining all of their
important contributions, the Integral approach is able to offer fresh,
comprehensive, and exciting approaches to resolving some of the world's
The value of a more
comprehensive or integral map lies in the fact that it can be fruitfully applied
to virtually any human endeavor, thus significantly increasing the probability
that specific issues and problems can more effectively and efficiently be
addressed and resolved.
These include such
pressing issues as:
Educational Problems and Solutions
Business and Organizational Leadership
Environmental and Ecological Problems
Health and Medical Issues
Political Problems and Solutions
International Political and Military Issues
Personal Transformation and Integral Spirituality
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
in Organizations: An Example from Business
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 overall
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.
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.
training is one example of the methods (such as "Theory Y") that point out that
productivity is often a product 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).
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 other quadrants.
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
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 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.
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
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 wholes.
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 his reality.
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 challenge.
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 research.
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
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
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," for example.
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.
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?)
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.
Integral Method to Organizational Change Initiatives
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
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.
Applications of the Integral Approach
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.
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.
Personal psychological and spiritual
Integral business and organizational practices
Education (in first, second, and third-world
Integral city and community planning
Integral conflict resolution
Organizational development in general (IOS apps)
Personal transformation and Integral
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?
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Next section: Present Activities