Appreciating Integral: An Interview with Dana Carman
Since 1984 Dana Carman has coached and consulted to visionary leaders and organizations spanning five continents across multiple sectors of society. His clients have demonstrated a commitment to transform themselves and their organizations, as well as the industries and regions in which their organizations are embedded. A hallmark of Dana’s whole systems change approach is the simultaneous deployment of both a top down and bottom up approach that he has developed with his colleagues and pioneered in his work with over one hundred leading organizations and institutions.
A global activist for 30 years, Dana is deeply involved in issues ranging from ending hunger to environmental education. He has been an outdoor educator and wilderness guide, and organized trips to the Amazon and Sub Saharan Africa as an expression of his commitment to a world that works for everyone.
Russ: Dana Carman, it’s a wonderful opportunity to have a chance to talk with you. It’s been a while since we’ve seen each other. I’m really interested in learning a lot more about what you’ve been up to and where you’re going.
Dana: Thank you, Russ. Great to see you, too.
Russ: One of the things I first knew about you was that you were involved with Pacific Integral. As I understand it, you were one of the founders. Is that correct?
Dana: That’s correct.
Russ: And one of the things that intrigues me about Pacific Integral is their 18-month global leadership program that they have had for a number of years. I’ve known some of the people who have graduated from the program and some of the people who have taught in it. Would you help us understand a little bit more about what that program is and what kinds of things it seems to have accomplished.
Dana: Yes, certainly. We started that program almost seven years ago. It was a coming together of my former business partner, Joseph Friedman, who works with JMJ, an integrally informed consulting company, Dr. Terri O’Fallon, Geoff Fitch, and myself. We really wanted to apply our experience in transformative change.
Terri was the first female Principal and Superintendent of Schools in Montana. Joseph and I have been consultants and social global activists for many, many years. Geoff’s background is in high tech and human development. Our original vision was to have 10,000 global evolutionaries, people who could come into difficult, complex situations anywhere on the planet and have the presence and have the maturity to be able to make a difference in those situations. It was a very inspiring vision that brought us together to create this program.
Russ: I know one of the stellar examples of that program is Yene Assegid, who has published an Integral Leadership Review. As has Terri, by the way. If I can ever get you to write, maybe you will, too. (Laughter)
Would you give us a feel for what happens in the 18 months of the program?
Dana: Yes. And as I speak, that program is being reoriented so that it’s not as time intensive and it’s easier for people – there’s easier entry. I can’t speak as clearly to the new design, because I’m not so involved with it now.
The four of us came together with our ideas and concepts about Integral and development and with lots of our own experience. In a way, this program has really shaped us and evolved us. It has continued to evolve. Jesse McKay went through the first program, continued to volunteer in the program, and he’s now one of the key faculty. Venita Ramirez, who went through our third program, is also one of the key faculty. So one of the benchmarks of this is that the people who go through the program can actually start out as apprentices and then they end up being the facilitators. This is in the spirit of the 10,000 global evolutionaries.
If I give you a short answer to your question, one of the things that has been extraordinary about this program is the community and the relationships that have formed among the participants. A lot of the catalyst for development is the strong community that gets built and developed—the feeling and the flavor of it.
Russ: In what sense is it an Integral program?
Dana: An over generalization is, if you were to look at development, transformative development, you could say there’s one school which is practice, practice, practice.
Dana: And then there’s another school, which is more about transmission.
Dana: You hang out in an environment with people who are operating in a particular way and sharing in a feast of consciousness. You begin to imbibe that and after a while it becomes your normal state. The majority of participants has both an up shift in the quality of their lives and most go through a profound transformation.
The value of the program is 60 percent the relational field and 40 percent active practice. There are some people who come into the program and they really want lots of reading and lots of practice. And there are other people who come in and they’re so tired of trying to achieve something and get ahead and evolve that their development is more like falling into an ocean of being. One of the things that’s great about GTC is that it is flexible enough to help people move in the way that they need to move. There’s also a curriculum, direction and a group.
As I said, we work with the MAP or Leadership Development Profiles before and after the program. We have our own method here, the way that we work with quadrants, levels, lines, states and types. We bring in the U process. We bring in dialog processes that Terri developed with Greg Kramer. We bring in outdoor experiences. We bring in varied expressions of body, mind, spirit in nature and culture.
Russ: Let’s talk just a little bit about LDP. Have you had the direct involvement of Susann Cook-Greuter or anyone from Bill Torbert’s group?
Dana: Yes, absolutely. Susann has been Terri’s mentor. Susann is a mentor, friend and colleague of ours. She’s been involved in coaching us and working with us with the LDP. We had Bill as an online faculty early in the program.
Bill is not directly related to our program, but I’m part of his Alchemist community, along with Jesse McKay, another one of our faculty. I get the privilege to spend time with him. He’s actually coming to visit in Ashland next month.
Russ: You must have met, then, our Associate Editor, Gayle Young, who is part of the community, as well.
Dana: Well, my fiancé, Julie Freed and Gayle Young are responsible for coordinating our Alchemist workshop—our second alchemist workshop—which is going to be here in Ashland at the end of March.
Russ: This alchemist group sounds absolutely fascinating. If I were ever to want to be a part of a group, I would imagine that would be one that would be really high on the list. Would you tell just a little bit about what the group is about?
Dana: Yes. Bill invited people who’ve been through his workshops. He calls them work parties. And then he interviewed each one; he probably spent an hour to two hours with each of us getting to know us before we did the workshop. Twelve of us came together for our first workshop at the Institute for Noetic Sciences in Petaluma, California.
Bill designed the workshop in such a way that he led very little of it. He set it up so that all of us actually exercised our own leadership. It was very deep, very fun. We all brought our own contributions, everything from Bert Parlee doing case studies on a client, to Joseph Friedman offering Hellinger Constellation work, to having a big masquerade party. It was so much fun and so rich an experience that almost everyone in the group decided they wanted to meet again. But we have ten of us coming to Ashland in March, and it’s a wonderful place.
It’s also wonderful to be with Bill in that kind of forum where we can both honor him for who he’s been but also really be a colleague with him. One of the things that is special about the workshop, because I think it really comes out of Bill, is that he was so vulnerable, real and authentic that this transmission permeated our entire experience.
Russ: Well, it sounds very much like the Bill I know, so that’s wonderful and I hope you’ll give him my regards. We exchanged emails recently and I’m planning to do an interview with him for the next issue. You’re going to be in the March issue of Integral Leadership Review. I’m hoping he’s going to be the June issue. So I’m really looking forward to that.
Going back to Susann and the Leadership Development Profile, one of the things that I remember Susann talking about—what she’s now calling Sentence Completion Test and Bill calls Leadership Development Profile—is that she did not recommend retakes of the instrument, because once you’ve done it, you’ve got a handle on it. Of course, once you go through a program like yours, you’ve got even more language to use to describe things. You recognize that it’s important to take the time to really fill it out carefully and not just glide through it. I’m wondering if you see that impacting this notion of level of development that you were talking about.
Dana: Maybe so. I can speak most clearly from my personal experience and observation and coaching of about one hundred GTC participants and consulting clients. Personally taking the LDP and then being coached by Susann to make sense of it was very catalytic in itself. It allowed me to claim strengths and exposed aspects of my ego that were in the shadow. Many of our participants and clients have retested one stage or more beyond their initial score over a two-year period of time. Whether or not they received a higher score because of their familiarity with the test, I am not certain. What I can say is that almost all of them are more capable in facing the complexities that life is serving them. From my point of view as a consultant, the LDP is an incredibly useful tool, while it is merely one window into who an individual is and their capacity to navigate life’s challenges. There ought to be a warning label for the LDP and the multiple other tools that we use that says something like, “Best Held Lightly.”
Russ: I’ve also used instruments with coaching clients, but not this particular one. What I always tell them is the feedback is not going to tell you the truth about you; it’s going to tell you how your answers correspond to a model. Then, that’s where the work starts. Not with the feedback, but with what you do with the feedback. And I’d never thought of it as having it shape me in the way that I dealt with the client. But I think you’re right—that it’s another lens, if you will, on that relationship and on the energy that’s coming from the client.
Dana: I would say that the most profound thing that I have, and maybe one of the more useful things I have as a consultant and change agent, is that I know my own capacity to be “a hammer looking for a nail.” I feel like my relationship with all models has matured and I feel like I’m much more humbled in my capacity to be with both the patterns that you can see in a system or an individual, but also the quality of the mystery that’s there, too and the unique footprint that that individual, team or organization has. I’m a real advocate for using models; I hold them with respect and also hold them lightly as one part of a larger frame. That might be my biggest growth and my biggest maturation as a change agent over the last ten years—to be able to have more awareness of my own propensity to be overly enamored by the models that I’m working with.
Russ: That reminds me of the OD Network Conference in Portland. I think it was 1982. Bob Tannenbaum was one of the keynoters. He talked about the fact that as a field, OD was using a lot of instrumentation and surveys and other tools. His message to the assembled gathering was: You are your most important tool.
Dana: Exactly. Susann has been a wonderful example for me of somebody who’s committed to the work she’s doing, committed to the ongoing development of the model that she’s working with, without being overly identified with it.
Russ: She’s got incredible energy in the way she’s moving around the world with this material.
Let’s go back to Pacific Integral for a moment. I would like to hear a little more about how integral shows up. Certainly, it’s a design lens, if you will, in that you’re probably going to be addressing the four quadrants, lines of development, things like that. But could you give us a feel for how these integral frameworks show up in the design of the program or in the approach as it’s evolved?
Dana: You’re asking now specifically about the Generating Transformative Change program?
Russ: Yes; the 18-month program.
Dana: One of the things about the design for that program is it’s six, five-day retreats over an 18-month period of time with group work in between—online work, conference calls and projects that the groups work on together. It’s a combination of working and introducing the quadrants. In the very first retreat, the quadrants are introduced in a way that the people in the program begin to look at their life and look at their blind spots. Then, they begin to move from themselves to the dynamics of the cohort that they’re in, to then taking on practicing with a make-believe organization. Then, we introduce the stages of development. The very first meditation—I love this—is with levels of development. Geoff Fitch put together a comedy meditation where different comedians speak through the waves of the spiral. Most people enjoy this until they hit a level that they don’t think is very funny. We go from Richard Pryor up through Dzongsar Khyntse. He has people get quiet and listen to comedy—different comedians through the spiral of development—and most people get offended somewhere along the line.
Russ: And what is the implication of being offended? Is it shadow or is it level?
Dana: The things that I’m offended with or the buttons that are pushed are usually the places where that level or that energy isn’t so integrated in me. I have some resistance to it. I don’t have an I-thou relationship with it.
Russ: So could it be about, let’s say, not owning the red in us, or could it be about not having yet been able to recognize a second-tier capacity? Could it be either/or? I mean, not recognizing red is more like shadow, and the other is more like orange energy, if you will.
Dana: Or not getting it, yeah. I tend to agree with you. That’s as good an interpretation as any.
Russ: It’s all interpretation, isn’t it?
Dana: Yeah. You could say that one thing that happens is people are introduced to the different expressions of AQAL but also different change modalities that you can fit in the quadrants.
Russ: For example?
Dana: For example, the power of taking a stand and a deeper exploration into the nature of commitment. The whole notion of positive deviance. The practice of dialogue. We were with a group last time and we did a vision walk, an outdoor experience that was a take-off on a Vision Quest. One of the groups conducted its final session in Mexico. The theme for this session was resilience. We started by getting outside of our socio-economic milieu and going into villages that are resource poor, but wealthy in a lot of other ways. We worked side by side for a few days learning from the residents of a rural village.
I’m naming several of the change modalities used in the program. There’s a whole practice that has to do with having other people take on your vision as their own. That practice is informed by the levels of development. It is really learning to put yourself in another’s world.
So when we teach something, we teach it cognitively. But then we give people a lot of experience in terms of simulations with that work. In the third session, in the county that this program has been being offered in—on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, it’s called Mason County—each group has been doing an Integral assessment with a not-for-profit organization.
One way we get to test both people’s learning of using Integral and also their ability to work together as a group is we put them under pressure where they have to make a presentation. They do a whole set of interviews and assessment, an all-quadrant assessment of a small organization. Then they come together and make a presentation back to that group that somehow helps that group in its evolution. That’s one of the ways that we get to see how much people have learned and also where the holes are in the boat.
Russ: It sounds like there are multiple levels of learning and multiple levels of change that occur for people who go through this program. Have there been any significant events that have occurred as a result of what people are doing who have come through the program?
Dana: Well, it seems to me that there are quite a few people like Yene, who came through this program and really used that to fuel her passion to make a difference in the next generation of leadership in Africa and all the work that she’s done from that. There are two other Ethiopians, one a woman named Nadia Waber and a guy named Negash Shiferaw. Negash lives in Seattle now. I met him in Addis Ababa four years ago. He came to the U.S. to do GTC and also to get a graduate degree at the University of Washington. Nadia is a principal in an Ethiopian consulting firm called the Center for African Leadership Development. Nadia, Negash and their colleagues are working to bring the GTC to Ethiopia and have it accredited as a Master’s program.
It seems to me that many of the people who come through GTC are people who touch a lot of other people in terms of who they are. And the original intention is that people will be so supported in their ability to be of service in the world that when they go back into their environments, they’re that much more effective.
Russ: Change happens on subtle levels very often. And change is happening for you. You are, if not transitioning out, at least changing your role. And as I understand it you’re going to take on a far more international presence. Is that correct?
Dana: Somewhere in my prayers I asked for a life that was both more rooted and one that was more global. I have gotten more than what I asked for in a lot of ways.
I’m involved in a couple of projects right now that are focused outside of the U.S. I am leading two three-day workshop in St. Petersburg, Russia, for consultants and managers. There’s a group out of St. Petersburg called the Coaching Institute, and they’re holding a conference in May. They’ve asked me to come and speak in the voice of the Integral Consultant and Practitioner. I’m leading workshops for consultants and managers there.
I’m also working with some colleagues in Australia who are doing some wonderful work over there—they’re called Leap Management Consulting. I’m supporting them to develop their practice and have it be more Integral. Those are two places that are not only close to my heart but where I have family, in Australia, and also in Russia is where my ancestors come from, all my grandparents. And Ethiopia, my fiancé Julie and I are in the process of adopting an Ethiopian child.
Russ: You have your feet on four continents. That’s extraordinary. When you think about the work with the people in Russia, the coaches and consultants in Russia, what do you see as being most important about the Integral approach that you want to bring to that environment?
Dana: Well, I don’t know the culture. So I’m really learning it now via Skype and having conversations with people who I’m working with. The people who are sponsoring me and my colleague, Jesse McKay, who lives in Munich, are really asking for something that is not dissimilar from the United States. I think the managers are looking to have their organizations be more profitable, and they’re looking for ways that they can be more effective, more efficient, more sustainable, all the kinds of things that organizations here are looking for: competitive advantages. And it sounds to me like the consultants that I will be working with are looking to develop themselves and to be able to use Integral lenses to see their own blind spots so that they can be of greater service. But you should ask me this question in about three months and I’ll tell you when I get back. But that’s what I’m hearing.
Russ: Let’s apply it to the Australian situation. Are you a little further along there?
Dana: A little bit. And I think what they’re looking for, are a couple of applications. One application that we’re talking about right when I get off the phone with you is a large construction company that is on two continents. There’s a group of people who we’re working with who are accountable for safety, health services, environmental impact, and compliance. Typically, their role has been to be policemen. It sounds like it’s mostly expert consciousness. Their organization is really looking to move into a more both/and, a more Integral way of working that’s both honoring both sustainability and profitability with less focus on hierarchical management.
The group that I’m working with is more matrixed. What they need, how they’ve been trained and what they’ve had to do in the words of Ron Heifitz has been more technical. So the context for our work is to develop themselves as adaptive leaders. And for me, in terms of facing adaptive challenges, being able to have an Integral consciousness where you can’t solve a problem by just taking something that you already know. You could say this is a four quadrant solution. Just beginning to use the quadrants for people to be able to see the adaptive nature of the challenges that they’re facing. To see the systemic and the inter-systemic vicious cycles that they’re in is incredibly helpful. I find this is really sticky, no matter what level of development that they’re working.
Russ: There are a couple of things that come out of that for me. One is I’m reminded of Otto Laske’s work and the notion of a dialectic experience or process in development, in communication and so on. One of the phrases that I love that he uses is the notion that we’ve got to move away from – at least in most cases, looking for final solutions. That when we’re starting to talk about adaptive dynamics, we’re really talking about processes that don’t involve looking for final solutions but involve looking for an intervention that is going to lead to another set of phenomena that is going to lead to the need for another intervention of some kind. Is that the kind of process you’re having in mind?
Dana: Yeah. What we’re really trying to do is be able to create an environment for ongoing learning and reflection. Action Inquiry, you could say, using Bill Torbert’s practices of single, double and triple-loop learning.
Whether we call it that or teach that, what I found in my work in the U.S. in the last couple of years, is that I have found myself working in situations that are similar to this where one way to characterize it is the culture is blue moving to orange. Or you could say expert moving to achiever. And often there’s an executive, who is a stage to two stages beyond where his people are. And so what he’s looking for, first of all, as a leader is how do I create an organization that’s able to adapt, learn and be able to work outside of the rules and roles and to be one that’s more flexible, more pragmatic? If you think about it, how do I raise the development of that holon, and how do you measure it in all four quadrants? That’s what this Australia project seems to be about. My two major consulting projects for the last couple of years, working with a prison and a health plan, have been about this same theme. How do we design an intervention that allows for the whole system to evolve to its next level of development?
Russ: You opened the door to spiral dynamics just now, in talking about orange and green and so on. You’re going to be working in the context of a construction company, and when you talk about two continents, I’m assuming that you are going to be working with people that are really centered across the spectrum from a spiral dynamics lens or from an LDP lens. I’m reminded of Don Beck’s talking about his experience before apartheid was ended in South Africa where he was brought in to work in the mines, working with mining managers and supervisors. They were dealing with workers who were centered in purple and going into red. The supervisors and managers were red going into blue, and blue going into orange. A lot of the work was around how do you communicate, how do you engage, how do you build in a way that is going to support the healthy evolution of the spiral at that point? It sounds like that’s what you’re talking about.
Dana: Before I heard about Integral in 1996, my orientation had been to listen the greatness in the person and the system that “wants” to emerge. Integral has allowed me to be able to have a deeper and broader understanding of the current reality of an organization, a team and an individual.
Russ: So basically, you’re dealing with a system that has pretty well-defined boundaries, as opposed to a political system in a culture.
Dana: Yeah. Before I came across Integral—and I think I was more naïve—I couldn’t distinguish between the different worlds people were in. It was difficult for me to hold the polarity of holding somebody’s greatness and at the same time holding their shadow. That might have to do with not just learning the Integral maps, but also being able to see and appreciate my own complexity and shadow.
Russ: It’s hard enough to hold our own shadow much less anybody else’s.
What do you see as the next steps in terms of the development of Integral as an approach, more holistic or integrative approach, to working with people in organizations? Where do you see that the work really needs to be?
Dana: Boy. You know, Russ, I don’t have a well thought out answer here, so I’ll just respond here from my own experience. I think on one hand I can see the value of developing Integral as a system. But my experience is that Integral’s strong point is not its intervention tools. It seems to me that people who are transformative change agents use Integral on themselves—as Ken says, Integral medicine is about the physician.
Russ: So you mean the Integral life practice? Is that what you’re talking about?
Dana: Yes. And speaking as a consultant one of the things that I found is that the more I can keep the framework hidden and the more I don’t rely on the language and the more I am able to put myself in the world and the language of the client.
Russ: Oh, exactly! I’ve heard Ken and Don Beck both talk about how it’s important not to use this language with clients. So you’re confirming that?
Dana: I’m also saying that there’s a time with certain clients in certain situations to use the maps and the models as a way to have them more clearly see their situation. I have found that to be transformative. But I’ve found it to be most transformative when I’ve held back long enough until that’s exactly what they need to see or need to hear.
What I find is that people who tend to be self identified with Integral, lead with the models and the maps. And in a way, as I said, most change agents—and I’ve seen this in myself—are hammers looking for nails. What’s good about Integral is that it’s a huge hammer that can hold most everything. Our next challenge as change agents is to develop our own maturity and then to have the kinds of tools and practices that arise out of that kind of embodied consciousness. Polarity management, for example, is a really sticky and useful tool to work with people across the spectrum of development. I think it’s taught differently when the practitioner is embodying an Integral consciousness and an Integral sensibility. I think it’s done with more sophistication and more discrimination.
Russ: Well, that sounds like great challenges for all of us who do consulting and coaching and is inherent in the Integral approach.
Dana: Yeah. I think the challenge for us as practitioners is to deepen our own study and then to step outside of our familiar circles of learning and develop the tools and capacities that we need so that we can be of greater service in situations that maybe we’re not so comfortable with.
Russ: We’re dealing with challenges to our own edge.
Dana: What’s present for me is more my sense of appreciation for what you’ve been doing for the last seven or eight years. And really, really deeply appreciative for not just your spending the time with me, but for what you’ve been doing with Integral Leadership Review. This seems like an expression of your heart, and it also brings together your scholarly interests, too. I imagine it’s wonderful for your learning.
Russ: Absolutely. Thank you.
Dana: I spoke earlier about this prayer that I made to the Universe. I feel like the Universe listened and kind of took me by my feet and shook me upside down. As I’ve gone through some really challenging times over the last year and a half, some of the most challenging situations in my life, I’ve really had the opportunity to become much more Integral and to really learn for myself what Integral is in a way from the inside out. That’s had very little to do with the maps and the models. It’s had more to do with discovering where I can rest. And what is it that’s reliable and what isn’t reliable. Just going through my own profound changes on many different levels has allowed me to be more vulnerable, more open, more adaptable, more trusting. So I would say that the most valuable training and maybe the hardest training, at least that I’ve experienced so far, is going through a big disorienting dilemma, a set of disorienting dilemmas in life.
You were asking about our GTC program. In a way, the people who get the most out of that program and also our consulting clients that get the most are going through their own large disorienting dilemma. What we’re doing is providing a container for that, a crucible for that. What I have discovered over the last year and a half is that the crucible, the part of the whole that’s been most alive for me, has been my relationship with the Earth and my relationship and access to the support around me—the support that you can see and the support that’s invisible. It has been quite an Integral education. I could go into more detail, but I believe that that’s helped me in my own evolution as somebody who’s trying to be useful in the world.
Russ: Thank you very much, Dana. It’s wonderful to have had the chance to talk with you.
Dana: Oh, Russ, thanks so much.