In our last blog, I introduced Integral Theory, a meta-theory by Ken Wilber. His AQAL model and acronym include five elements: (four) quadrants, levels, lines, states, and types. As detailed in that last blog, each quadrant focuses our attention to observe and influence modes of inquiry.
This blog further distinguishes the Quadrants of Integral Theory and applies it to Learning and Leadership: two areas of development that impact organizational life today that might benefit from an integral perceptive.
Briefly, Wilber’s AQAL model integrates five elements into an Integral Theory:
1- Quadrants: The four quadrants includes four perspectives (interior and exterior, individual and collective) that all phenomena possess.
2- Levels involve stage development, which offers the “structures of awareness,” or vertical development such as mindsets or attitudes. Each level embraces the previous level to expand structures to include more variables and complexity.
3– Lines of development are corollary to stages, offering a horizontal perspective of development. Each level consists of multiple lines of aptitude, akin to Gardner’s multiple intelligences, such as emotions (EQ), spirituality (SQ), intuition, interpersonal, self-identity, creativity, cognitive, kinesthetics, moral, etc.
4– States (of consciousness) involves an unfolding “space of awareness” that is fluid—as in a dream, wake, or altered states of consciousness —and moves through levels of awareness, from gross, subtle, and causal to non-dual awareness.
- NOTE: States and Stages sound the same but stages involve structures of focus (more stable) and states involve space of awareness (more fluid).
5- Types involve typologies such as Meyer-Briggs, Keirsey, Enneagrams, the Big Five Personality test etc.
For Wilber, reality — all phenomenon — is not composed of things or processes, but of holons, which are wholes that are simultaneously parts of other wholes (whole/parts). This is true in the way a word is both, whole, onto itself, and part of a sentence; and that, a sentence is also whole, and part of a paragraph, and so on. The four quadrants reveal four dimensions of a holon (whole/part) when observing phenomenon and solutions.
- Upper Left: CONSCIOUSNESS: intention, phenomenology, ontology, psychotherapy, meditation, emotional intelligence, personal transformation
- Upper Right: BEHAVIOR: epistemology, empiricism, scientific analysis, quality control, behavioral modification
- Lower Left: CULTURE: multiculturalism, postmodernism, worldviews, corporate culture, collective values
- Lower Right: SOCIETY: systems theory, social systems analysis, techno-economic modes, communication networks, systems analysis
Specifically, in our last blog, we explored how, businesses and leaders today, confuse the parts with the whole. For instance, how many conflate cultural awareness or lower left issues with lower right societal concerns or solutions. As a public policy example, police departments across the nation opted to deal with left-side concerns about police brutality by:
… putting cameras on police officers (lower right solution)
… to record and change behavior (upper right)
… rather than dealing with the racial fears (upper left)
… that form the culture (lower left) and drive actions (upper right).
Indeed, businesses are also being called to respond to issues emerging from the lower left cultural quadrant:
- Disney canceled the popular show Rosanne within hours of a racist tweet by its star, Roseanne Barr—not for low performance, ratings, or revenues (right side), but for racist remarks (left side) made in another venue.
- In recent weeks, five airlines sacrificed profit to stand against the U.S. government’s family separation policy. Each refused to transport separated, undocumented minors across our nation.
- Last year, the former CEO and co-founder of Uber, Travis Kalanick, was summarily dismissed and replaced by his board for fostering a culture that revealed sexist policies.
Each of these situations resulted not from poor revenue, bad ratings, low profit or lack of productivity. These right-side issues were trumped by left-side values and concerns, catching boardrooms and executives off-guard.
This blog further distinguishes the Quadrants of Integral Theory and applies it to Learning and Leadership.
Learning can be most pernicious, as most educational institutions have designed learning from the right-side perspective of studying, teaching, and investigating. That perspective limits us to facts and evidence from empirical observations, which in business translates to researching, acquiring and managing knowledge.
But knowledge is more fungible and accessible now than ever before. We require a framework that expands beyond knowing to increase capacity in learning.
Researcher Sean Esbjörn-Hargens, a leading scholar in integral education, shares thoughts in his paper Integral Teacher, Integral Students, Integral Classroom: Applying Integral Theory to Education, which explores the strength each quadrant contributes to an integral learning experience.
With regard to learning, I offer this AQAL view that integrates our research in these areas:
Upper Left: CAPACITY/CONTEXT:
This quadrant increases capacity. I embody learning and self-discovery through inquiry. Through increased awareness, I engage in contemplative inquiry, critical reflection, and somatic discovery.
The focus is on whether I am grounded: open to possibility, now, and present to my intention? Or, am I reacting to the past or anticipating the future?
Upper Right: CONTENT/CONCEPTS:
This quadrant studies content. I study concepts and research knowledge to produce results. Through study, I engage in skillful action, practical application, and active observation.
The focus is on whether I am focused on distractions or study.
Lower Left: PRACTICE/BELONGING:
This quadrant discovers practices. We experience learning via deepening and uplifting engagements. Through discovery, we understand through connected encounters, perspectival embrace, and ethical participation.
We experience learning by cultivating shared experiences to clarify values and deepen shared commitment.
Lower Right: PROCESS/STRUCTURES:
This quadrant processes knowledge. Technology and systems can improve how we learn together via efforts such as STEM, gamification, systems, and scenarios.
We share knowledge through connections enabled by processes, systems, and technology.