Robin Lincoln-Wood with Terri O’Fallon
In this interview, Robin Lincoln-Wood and Terri O’Fallon discuss how they both became interested in integral leadership and state development, and how it has impacted their professional careers!
RLW: Welcome to this interview between Terri O’Fallon and Robin Wood for Integral Leadership Review. We’re going to be discussing how Terri and myself got interested in integral leadership in the first place, stage development, and how that might link into the kind of work I’m doing on the Making Good Happen front, which is the title of my latest book. I’m going to start by interviewing Terri O’Fallon, who is well known from those of you who’ve been involved with Pacific Integral, and more generally across the Integral movement globally.
TOF: Thank you so much Robin. It’s good to see you again.
RLW: Yeah, good to see you. We had a very intense and interesting conversation about our different backgrounds the last time we spoke, so it does seem appropriate that we start with you telling us a bit about how you got into integral leadership and into stage development, and the kind of assessments that you’re doing now.
TOF: It began many years ago when we started testing people in our GTC program for their developmental levels using the Loevinger Lineage Scale. We tested them every two years for as long as they would take it, so that we would have a longitudinal study showing how people develop over time. That was a very fascinating beginning of our understanding the stages of development that humans go through.
Of course, then I got very involved with Integral Theory, which I used to help derive a theory for the evolution of humans, using that approach and the Loevinger lineage. And what I did was to develop a new scoring system, a scoring approach that was based on the theory that I developed. The new scoring system in this research replicated the Loevinger scoring system, and this scoring system also has some very unique characteristics.
First of all, it has some repeating patterns. It has two new developmental levels at the later end, and it measures perspectives. So, it really is helpful in working with the developmental levels of humans and of human systems. It’s been quite an interesting process. The approach is called STAGES. It’s a young model so far, but the research results that we got from our study were very, very good, so we’re quite enthusiastic about how it’s developing.
RLW: When we last spoke, and I was reading some of the material you sent me, I heard good things about what you’re doing from a number of people, on the West Coast of the United States. The thing that fascinated me and that’s been very controversial in the world of integral for a couple of decades now, has been this whole argument about the way in which people develop from, let’s call it, especially in business and organization terms, the Experts/Achievers, who are in Spiral Dynamics terms, the blue-orange folks, and in Integral terms, the amber-orange people, though nobody is a color, as we know very well.
But for the purposes of generalization, people tend to see that as one particular stage, and then there’s this big discussion around whether people really go through green, as it’s called in both systems, or whether they can sort of jump from the Achiever’s stage through Strategist, through to the Alchemist stage, which is the later stages that we talk about as Teal or Yellow in Spiral Dynamics, and Turquoise in Integral Theory. By this stage, we’ve confused everyone who isn’t familiar with these stage models, of course. But the big point is that you can, I’ve always believed, sort of touch in, as Don Beck always likes to say, to the other side of the spiral. If you’re on the warm side of the spiral, you can touch into the cooler side, but you don’t stay there very long. You need to get some basics, to move on to your next level. And if you’re on the cool side of the spiral, then you can touch into the warmer sides, but you’re not going to stay there for very long.
What has your research shown about this? Because I think it’s a big issue for a lot of people right now when we talk about Integral Leadership, and what we’ll talk about later in Making Good Happen.
TOF: We don’t really use colors because it can be very, very confusing, and we tend not to use names, although we do sometimes use names so that people can understand what levels we’re talking about. Ours is a numbering system that is based on person perspectives, and we have an early person perspective and a late person perspective measurement. So, 1.0 would be the early measurement, 1.5 would be the late measurement of the first person perspective, and it goes all the way up through the sixth person perspective. 6.0 would be the early part of the six-person perspective, 6.5 would be the later part.
So, what you’re talking about in, the Expert/Achiever, which would be early and late third-person perspective, early and late orange some people might say, and then the fourth-person perspective is early and late, 4.0 and 4.5. 4.0 is Green in some nomenclatures, and 4.5 is Teal in some nomenclatures. So, they’re both fourth-person perspectives, and one of the things we did when we put this scale together was to try to make sure that we had a very strict measuring stick, that we had an early and late level of every single perspective. We didn’t leave an early out in one perspective, and leave a late out in another perspective. We have a very clear early and late in every single stage, every single perspective.
When you do that you can find repeating patterns, and that’s what this model shows. So, the repeating patterns actually help us identify where people are, just by engaging with them face-to-face. We can do that. We have an inventory people can take, but what we’re finding is that there are quite a few stereotypes in these stages that are commonly seen with people. On the other hand, when you look at the underlying parameters–in the STAGES model we find that there are many different aspects of these developmental stages that are not as clearly recognized, and people can go through those stages in ways that they wouldn’t recognize, simply because they don’t see the underlying patterns or parameters that we found in the STAGES model.
So we’re finding these stages to be very, very robust, and we really understand that people really do go through each of these stages, but they may not go through them in the stereotypical way. They may have an emphasis on certain parameters and not on others, but what we are looking to do is make sure all the parameters are healthy, so that they can grow and develop into the next stage in a healthy way. So maybe that will help clear up the way that the STAGES model relates to Spiral Dynamics and other models out there. We look underneath the descriptions to determine what the parameters are, and that makes up the repeating patterns in this model.
RLW: Well, that’s very interesting, and what I find fascinating is that this helps us unpack some of the dilemmas I can see all around in Spiral Dynamics and Integral, and more generally, the 2006 Harvard Business Review article published that first put the Torbert nomenclature on the map, basically the Diplomats, the Experts, the Achievers, the Strategists and so on, was done very deliberately from a corporate perspective, and they’d interviewed thousands of executives on both sides of the Atlantic, admittedly quite a long time ago.
Using the sentence completion test, I understand that you’re describing the Loevinger-Cook-Greuter tradition, right?
RLW: And that’s really the devil of the field in a way because, as I understand it, when Professor Clare Graves, who was a professor of Psychology at New York University in Schenectady, and he spent 25 years researching his students, because they wanted to know whether Freud or Piaget or Kohlberg or whoever was right? Because all of these Psychologists historically said very different things about people.
And so he came up with this first stage development model. He didn’t just do multiple choice tests, he had one-way mirrors and conversations in rooms, and analyzed behavior and analyzed physical characteristics. It was what he called the biopsychosocial approach–all four quadrants of the Integral Quadrant model research program. But what got left behind was his multiple-choice tests for us, right? And that’s the data that everything’s based on, and as we know, multiple choice tests have their limitations. They can be a good starting point to understand things. So, you know, that’s been a bit of a frustration, but we’ve worked with that.
The other problem with the sentence-completion tests is that they’re very expensive to do because they have to be done by a registered Psychologist, or somebody who’s able to do this. Could tell us a bit more about that, Is that slowly changing? Is it becoming more feasible now, to be scalable, in any way?
TOF: I believe that there are many tests that are expensive to score by hand, where people have to write paragraphs. We know that the subject-object test has paragraphs. We know that the Lectica has people writing paragraphs, so any time you have a person’s writing, actual writing, it’s going to take more time, so that tends to provide an expense that a multiple choice doesn’t. However, we have some research that’s coming online with Tom Murray with computer scoring, and he has a group of IT statisticians working with him. He has an IT model that is getting very close to doing some very good measurement so that it will be able to do some large numbers of scoring for organizations, for governments, for whatever kind of large entity you might have, and let people know the center of gravity, for instance, of an organization, or a department, or a state, and that’s a really good use of it.
On the other hand, a computer won’t be able to write comments. It won’t be able to do all of the things that a certified scorer can do. So this broadens out the application for the STAGES model. We’ll have both, and Tom is already doing this kind of scoring with his model, with his work. So, we have the capacity that will score larger scale processes when we need it, and then when we need something that’s in depth, where we want to dive into the very basic parameters of an individual, which ones are weak, which ones are strong, even shadow elements and things like that, we can score developmentally by hand; and that will be a little more costly. People’s real writing becomes more costly than any kind of multiple-choice kind of a test.
RLW: Sure, because the multiple-choice test is a favorite across everything from the Jungian archetypes to the Big Five personality tests. Most people in the corporate world, certainly, have filled in a couple of tests that test them on all sorts of different scales. It suits the Internet as well because it’s easy and it doesn’t cost much money, essentially apart from having an engine analyze the scores. But when you get down to the personal feedback, that’s a very different story.
TOF: Yes, it is.
RLW: So there seems to be kind of a beginner through intermediate to advanced level at which you’d want to introduce people to these different instruments and explain that progression, because I think what’s happening today is, people just get favorites, and I’ve seen in organizations and HR directors, you know, the people who administer this sort of thing, just go with the things they know and love, and they tend to not know about or ignore things that they haven’t heard about or that are new. So it’s very hard to establish a common base for this whole field, and that’s one of my frustrations, and in a way this is how I got into this myself.
TOF: Well, maybe you’d like to share a little bit about your process, and where development fits into all of the good work that you’re doing and have been doing for so many years, Robin.
RLW: Thanks, Terri. I would be very happy to share that. You know, sometimes first impressions leave a lasting impression, and I’ll never forget sitting high up in maybe the 30th floor of a glass and steel tower in Hong Kong overlooking the harbor in the offices of one of the giant corporations of Asia and the world, and we were doing transformation programs for parts of this business, which were very, very large entities in themselves. And we were dealing with very multinational, diverse groups of executives in very different countries. The core of this group was based on a British ethos that went back a couple of hundred years to the founding of Hong Kong, and then you had layered onto that the Cantonese in the south of China, and the Mandarins in the north from Beijing, and then you’ve got the Philippinos and the Singaporeans, the Malaysians, Indonesians, and so on. So a very complicated, cultural milieu within very different life conditions.
Because I grew up in Africa and worked around the world, I was used to the fact that some children can just run around naked playing with a little wire-framed car they made out of coat hangers, and be extremely happy, until they discover that there are other things they could have. But I was used to that, there was never a model I’d ever seen that explained that. So when I was sitting in this tower on the 30th floor, and the head of change came back from a course in Texas, called Spiral Dynamics, the first Spiral Dynamics program run by Don Beck and his colleague, now deceased, Chris Cowan, he was very excited because he had done the tests and he said he could suddenly see all of these different stages of development. He brought back a couple of copies of the book and these- all these bits of paper that one gets at these courses. He said, I can see now how the Philippines is different. It’s got much more purple, red, than let’s say, Singapore, which is more blue-orange, you know, using the Spiral Dynamics terminology, which everybody picks up, and talks colors, and annoys everybody around them because they always ask “What the hell are you talking about?”
But, I picked it up. I picked up the language. So, for a couple of years, he was the only other person I knew who used this weird language, color language, but it worked. That was a beautiful thing. So, when we did change programs and transformations in different countries, we took different approaches to have different conversations with people, and because I was also using some software to map the, what we call these conversations and mirroring back to people how they were part of a much bigger conversation on different issues at different levels, and then doing the hard thing of saying, well let’s look at, “How can we redesign your business model?” and “How we can make this business more competitive?”, and look into the future and do some scenario thinking. There are so many tools out there, but as you know, unless you meet people where they’re at, then you go right over their heads very quickly, yeah?
That’s life. You can be the cleverest person on the planet and achieve nothing by going over people’s heads. So, that was a really interesting lesson, being able to speak to people where they’re at, addressing their real issues and concerns, and as you said earlier, looking at the health of the system. Because it’s not about who’s the most developed person in the room, or the smartest person in the room. It’s irrelevant. What matters is the ability to align that group of people, that organization, that culture, around a common purpose that can get something done.
It sounds easy to say, but it’s incredibly hard to do. So that was my angle of attack, or my initial, hook, that got me involved in this, after being very interested in cognitive science and psychology my whole life. I finally saw something that made life simpler, and I- I could understand the complexity better. And I could explain it, with some difficulty, to other people. That was always the problem. If you used it with people who know what they’re talking about, it’s brilliant. It’s very fast, very quick, and you get results.
In many projects over the last few decades, that’s exactly what’s happened, but there’s an inner, research and development kind of language you speak to each other, which is not something that would be understood outside the room. So you then have to translate everything you’ve done into plain English so that the people you’re working with go “Oh, I see what you’re saying.” And: “I can see why I feel like a fish out of water in this particular role in this hospital, because culturally I’m just not at the right fit. It’s nothing personal. It’s just values. My values are very different, and I don’t feel motivated to be the chief executive at this hospital. In fact, I hate it. That’s why I drink so much”. And you find out all sorts of things about why people are dysfunctional and difficult, and they do too, and they go “Oh, this is a relief.” So, yeah, we can fix that.
TOF: So, you have some new writing that you’re doing on the good life. I understand a book is coming up. Are you going to cover this and thriveability in your book?
RLW: Well, I’ve written seven books, which face the same challenge that we’ve just been talking about, that we have in stage development models, and that is, how to put it really simply so that people who are not experts in the field can understand it. And each of the books I’ve written before were written really for Experts, you know, or Achievers, or maybe Strategists, who already kind of had a background in some of things I was talking about. My frustration has always been A) that limits your audience; B) It gets way too complicated too quickly when you want to do something in action.
So, to make it much more actionable I simplified it, and I set myself a 100 A4-page limit, which I achieved, although it’s a bit more page count in the smaller format, but that’s neither here nor there, really. So, Making Good Happen – Pathways to a Thriving Future, is a synthesis of everything I’ve written really, in the last 17 years or so, in seven books. And, why it’s important is, well … let me just take a step back for a second. Historically, ever since Aristotle asked the question: “What is the good, Phaedrus”, or whoever it was that he was asking the question to, philosophers and people generally, have been trying to define what good looks like; what the good is, what the beautiful is, what the true is, and what the just is. It changes depending on your perspective and where you’re sitting, right, depending upon your life conditions. If you’re in Syria right now, in one of towns that’s being bombed to get rid of ISIS, like Raqqa, then good would just be having enough water and a little food to feed your family to survive 24 hours, right? That would be good because a lot of them are not getting any food and very little water. There’s probably 20 places on the planet right now we could talk about, which we won’t do, but very sadly, that are in exactly that state. They’re literally suffering and struggling to survive, and that’s going to get worse as the scientists tell us, as we go into the next stage of our climate change saga.
So, at the other extreme, you have people living today like Kings. The kings of even a hundred years ago would be envious of our living standards, in let’s say, Scandinavia, certain gated communities in North America, but of course with very high walls and everyone outside is not living like this, but they’re there to serve the elites, the one percent in their gated communities. And around the world, sadly, Brazil the same story, South Africa, very high income inequality, rising violence, crime. Why? Because there just isn’t enough to go around, and there’s a lot of reasons for that, but let’s not go into that at the moment.
So, here we have a really serious situation on our planet, and the challenge is that we’re finding it difficult to align people’s thinking and their action on what’s really important, and people are so deep in over their heads, as Robert Kegan points out many times, they have so much information, yet they struggle to see a pattern that connects it, and they don’t see the dots being connected by the lines and figuring out “Well, that’s one of those.”
So, going back to this “good” question, what was our answer to that? Well, for a couple of thousand, maybe three thousand years, it was religion. Religion defined what was good. It was simple. There was some guy, usually at the front of the room, standing at a pulpit, telling us what good looked like, and also, even telling us if we were good, if we were Catholics in the confessional, or, you know … I’m not sure what they do in Muslim traditions, or … I don’t think judgment is a big one in the Buddhist tradition, for example, but there’s still some idea of what’s good and what’s not so good, and, (laughs) if you had compassion, for example, being a sign that what you’re doing is not so good. So, that’s three thousand years of history. Now, 80% of the people on the planet still believe in a religion. Isn’t that astounding? 80%. Wow. So, there’s only 20% of us that are more like what we call, spiritual, or whatever word you want to use. And we think, there’s something, a mystery more than, but bigger than us, but we’re not sure exactly what it is, and we agree to disagree, or transcend and include, or whatever our particular flavor of the month approach to that is.
So, I step back from that and I say: “Hang on a second- what is really going on here?” I wrote a couple of books before Making Good Happen, and the one that really set me on this path was actually a book that was written to be kind of a comedy called The Trouble with Paradise. Because, actually life is comical. It’s tragic-comedy some of the time as well. So, I started out by asking these big questions. What is the good, true, beautiful? And then I put a bit of personal anecdote and history from my own experience in it just to make it a bit more fun and funny because I’ve had some very interesting life experiences. And, then I suddenly realized, as I launched that book and talked to people about it, that without a system to help us to define what “good” is in common, we are in for a very rough ride. Let’s take an example: the Paris Climate Accord, that agrees that two degrees warming is a very dangerous level of global warming, right? In other words, “Good” means less than two degrees warming, which is still very bad for all of us, but at least we can agree on something here at a global level.
We know what “bad” looks like because “bad” means extinction for us and 90% of all species on the planet. That’s definitely bad. We can all agree, I think (laughs) that, that’s not good for us. So, what does “good” look like? That’s really the question, and at the same time, as I write these books, I’m going around giving speeches at conferences, and running workshops, and listening to people. Sustainable Brands is a conference organizer and media company based in San Francisco with 25 conferences in different cities around the world a year which has set a theme this year called “Redefining the Good Life”, so basically asking “What does it mean to live a good life?”, which is wonderful because that’s the question I’ve been asking since I was little. I’m sure a lot of us ask it every day.
So, in everyday terms, in this or that situation, what’s the right thing to do? What’s the best decision I can make in this situation? And you have maybe a bit of religion because somebody took you to church when you were little and you still go to church. That’s great, like my mother, God bless her, she’s a really good Christian. That’s fantastic, in that she’s acknowledged by everybody as a really, really good person, you know, to the extent that, you’ve got an example to live up to there. So, and I’m sure we each have someone in our lives who we think, that’s a really good person, yeah? Now, maybe that person that’s good isn’t successful in the terms that we define success as, like he who dies with the most toys wins, which I’m afraid is what we read about in the papers most of the time unless we look into The Guardian or something a little more on the left-leaning side of the media.
So, we struggle and statistics tell us that. They say that anything above $50,000 a year of income only marginally increases your happiness. So, if you’ve got a billion dollars, and I know a few people who do, they’re just not happier than you or me. They’re not. In fact, when you’ve got a billion dollars invested, you start worrying. “Ooh, I hope that’s alright, I hope they’re making good decisions with my money, you know?” (laughs). And those people can become quite paranoid.
TOF: So, you’ve got some definitions specific to what “good” is, then. Is that right, Robin?
RLW: Well, that’s the thing. So, the Good Cube, which is the ridiculously simple way of doing this, has three axes. So it starts off by looking at Six Pathways to a thriving future. Each of us is on a different pathway, so some of us, like you and me, and many people who will be watching this video, are living and working in what I call the first pathway, which is values and priorities. So, we’re working with, literally directly, what people value, what they prioritize, and how they think about that in their life and their work. And that includes evaluating yourself, evaluating others, evaluating the situation you’re in, and so on. And that includes policy makers from government, senior executives in large corporations, and leaders of all kinds of businesses, NGOs, charities, and religions.
TOF: So, you have other descriptions of a good life, besides this one?
RLW: Yes- that’s the first of six pathways where we talk about what pathway you’re on, and the values and priorities pathway one probably is the most important pathway to getting positive change to happen. But then it doesn’t matter unless you implement the second pathway, which is human development. Unless you apply what you believe to be your values and your priorities in the process of developing people through the different life stages and work stages, then this is all just academic, philosophical nonsense, right? Or religious claptrap, and they’ll just go “Ah, forget that. I just want to get on with the job.” You know? “Get this thing done. Why do you always have to have a conversation about everything? Let’s just do the work.”
TOF: So, this is the place we have in common, the developmental process, and it sounds to me like we have some very similar, understandings and beliefs. With the STAGES model, our main hope is to help people develop in a healthy, balanced way. It’s not to necessarily get to the next level of development because what we’re finding is if people develop in a healthy way and all the parameters underlying their development are healthy, they’re happy. They are balanced. They are fundamentally a happier group of people than if they are imbalanced in some ways, and then when they are balanced, and have a full, robust stage at whatever stage they’re at, we find that they just naturally grow to the next level without even trying. It’s a natural, capacity of people to evolve, when they’re in a healthy position, and it’s much more difficult for them to evolve when they’re not.
Finding good balance in the perspective levels, in the developmental levels, is really an important aspect. And as you mentioned, there’s some people in countries who have, uh … who seem to come from earlier perspectives than others do, and yet they may be much happier because they’re well-balanced, they give and they receive, they have a much more ‘good’ identity. They have the capacity to be in reciprocity with other people, and have a good set of ethics wherever they’re at, and I think that is the beautiful part. As each developmental level arises, it brings up the whole pursuit of, and the acquisition of happiness itself. So, that, I think, is probably as important as anything. And so if you have businessmen, and you have people who are leading, they themselves should be responsible, and hopefully they themselves will be responsible to look within, look without, develop themselves in a way so that all of the aspects of their development is robust and healthy, and then they can lead others in a way that’s more robust and healthy, as well.
One of the things I often say is, you don’t fall in love with somebody’s person perspective. You fall in love with them because of personality and because of the way they express their developmental level. And you have beautiful, beautiful people at every single developmental level, and you can fall deeply in love with them because of the way that they express themselves. And yet we also know that in this complex world, we must also think about the whole of society, the planet and globally.
So, we’re seeing imbalances right now, in ecology, because of different perspectives that people take on the ecological front. Balance needs to come from many levels of development. And when you look at it that way, we can see how important it is to really develop health on multiple levels. I believe that’s what you’re doing, Robin, in your work, is to see that all these different six levels come from health, and that they are part of the good life; that they pursue the good life, that money is not necessarily what makes a person happy, and you see we have all these views that help people in these areas, which just is fascinating for me.
RLW: Well, and that’s being confirmed by some very recent research. I was delighted to have a foreword to my book by KoAnn Vikoren Skryniarz, who is the chief executive and founder of Sustainable Brands.
Sustainable Brands just did some major research with 2000 plus people, with a Harris poll in the United States on redefining the good life. And that was one of the key points that came out, was A) It’s changed dramatically in the last 10 to 20 years from the materialistic, you know, “I want money and success. That’s what’s going to make me happy. That’s the good life, and having all the stuff that I can get, you know, that I need, the big house, the car, the, you know, the career, and so on”, to much more, we might call them, interior-based, purpose-based values, around a meaningful life, and making a contribution, and being of service to others, and we see a lot of that emerging in the millennials, too. That’s a generational shift, which is much needed at this time, and one of the challenges of individual development and stage development when we just look at individuals, or even if we aggregate a team, let’s say a top team of people and say “Oh, their center of gravity is here, or their organization is sort of here, and they have to be a little bit ahead of their organization, right, but not too far ahead, otherwise nobody knows what they’re talking about, or cares.
So, the key is that this has all got to work within the life conditions we’re in, so it’s very, very difficult to be happy if everybody around you is suffering. It’s impossible actually. Research shows that the people we’re interacting with heavily influence our own state of happiness.
The third pathway is about thriveable economics and society, so now you’re talking much bigger stakes. And this is the situation we’re in now, we’re in the final days of neo-liberal capitalism, what we call mono-capitalism, where the measure of success is money, and where money outweighs everything else in major decisions, usually. And now we have roughly 10% of the world’s big corporations and state-owned enterprises that acknowledge that there are ethical people on the planet and maybe even principles in addition to money and profit. And that’s taken 20-30 years of very, very hard work, and (laughs) it’s incredibly slow and frustrating, which is why I wrote The Leader’s Guide to Thriveability, because that was written for those people who were trying to make this happen faster with all of the models needed in the world of business and finance. And, we can’t have thriving people, individuals, unless we have thriving societies. Neoliberalism champion Margaret Thatcher believed there’s no such thing as society. People are just individuals she said, and they buy stuff and they vote. They vote with their dollars and their feet, and that’s it. You have markets, and they take care of the rest. Government was a necessary evil for her and Ronald Reagan who kickstarted the kind of economy we have today where income equality has risen to record levels.
So, in this final stage of neo-liberal capitalism, we really are stuck because the only thing that our leaders can do is pump more money into the economy, which is what they’ve been doing. They’ve pumped, literally, over the last decade since the crash of 2008, they’ve pumped trillions of dollars of funny money to keep the global economy turning, and guess what, at some point that funny money is going to be like monopoly money, right? It’s not going to be worth a hell of a lot, because you can’t buy, uh … Let’s put it this way, the global GDP right now is 75 trillion dollars. Maybe it will be 80 trillion dollars this year. The global amount of money that is invested and borrowed, that underpins that is 320 trillion dollars, of which 10% is environmentally, socially, or governance-tested to be good, or slightly less bad, than the very bad guys who are burning coal, and you know pumping up the greenhouse gases so that we overshoot our two degree target.
Now, unless your thriveable design of an economy in a society and an organization and all the things that go to make up that society, include a flourishing biosphere, include resilient habitats and cities that are full of intelligent transport that’s not just one person sitting in a traffic jam (laughs) with another million people trying to get somewhere, and circular manufacturing and mobility, we are not going to make it. We’re digging up 98% of the resources on one side of the planet, which end up in holes on the other side of the planet within two years, going through incredibly complex global supply chains. It’s amazing, isn’t it? That is the linear, “Take-Make-Waste economic model that is killing us. So, that’s the situation we’re in. So, that’s what the pathways are about. “Hey, get real. You might be the most advanced, developed person on the planet, wow, yeah, but hey, guess what? There’s not going to be many human beings left if we carry on living the lifestyle you’re living Mr. advanced person, or Ms. Advanced person, right?” So, get off your pedestal, roll your sleeves up, get real, because this is the time to face facts, and, you know, you’re on a journey, right? So that’s the second part of the good cube, is where you are on the journey.
So, look at yourself. Look at your carbon footprint. How many planet’s resources are you using? Are you bad? Are you less bad? Are you getting better? Are you good? Are you very good? Because right now, there’s just nobody on the planet that’s very good, which is what we define as thriveable. Most of us are bad or less bad, and I know you don’t want to judge people, but you’ve got to have some metric of saying “That’s not good enough”, right? And it’s not just changing the light bulbs, recycling, driving a hybrid and electric vehicle. That all helps, but actually there’s a much bigger set of challenges around our social design. We need to have voters, people in general understanding that. So, that’s why the book is written simply, so you can go “Oh, I see why that’s important. I see why that politician’s saying that, and that’s right” or “That’s not right”.
And then the final, third dimension of the Good Cube, is “How”? So, there are six parts to the transformation process. Firstly, can I SEE the beyond the short term now, to what’s called the third horizon, to really see the long-term consequences of my choices? Can I FEEL a passion to change things, and be infectious with that passion? Now, how do I then TOUCH others to align multiple stakeholder groups to want to go on a journey together? How do I MEASURE what’s good, or less good, or bad, in our context, and then define our progress? How do I REINVENT what we’re doing so, for example, in renewable energy, solar panels and wind power with good batteries and smart grids, can power the planet in the next 20 years. We don’t need oil. We don’t need fossil fuels at all, but unless you’ve got a whole lot of people, like literally hundreds and millions of people going “Yeah. That’s obvious, let’s do it”, you’re going to end up with politicians like Donald Trump in power who are not helping.
So, and then finally, how do you scale that, because I might have solar panels on my roof and be surrounded by wind turbines where I live, and have organic bio-agriculture, and you know, clean seas and nature reserves in the ocean, but I’m very well aware I’m privileged in that way. Yeah, I chose to live here in Perpignan because it’s so eco-friendly, but not everybody can live in an eco-friendly place because if you live in Pittsburgh its harder- though you can still have a vertical farm, and you can capture carbon in all sorts of interesting ways in urban environments. The problem is, as I have just probably pointed out, this is complicated, right?
TOF: Yes, it certainly is.
RLW: We have a responsibility to be good, I think. That’s important, and to make good happen, and to define what good means to us, each individually, and that means healthy?
TOF: It means healthy, yes. It means a kind of a do-no-harm attitude.
RLW: At the minimum, exactly.
TOF: Yes, and that involves several capacities. First of all, you have to be receptive, and that’s one of the parameters that we have in our developmental scale. You have to be receptive. Then you also have to be action-oriented, because things don’t get done unless you’re action-oriented. But you have to be able to listen and receive first. Thirdly, you need to be reciprocal. You need to engage in a reciprocity with other people, instead of just doing your own thing, or having other people doing their own thing. There’s an importance of coming together in a way that the knowledge gets messaged because you are engaged. And lastly, it’s important to interpenetrate, and that interpenetration, is one of the most important, critical aspects that the STAGES model points out, and that is we have to see our own projections. So, the very things we criticize other people for doing … Those things are in us, and we have to find those.
But not only that, it happens in corporations, too, and in business. So, business–one business is criticizing another business. How is it that they’re seeing something in another business? They probably will find that somewhere in their own organization, and they need to clean house just like the business that they’re looking at. Or one department is projecting on another department. This is a very important thing that is an interior prospect of understanding that what’s out there is also in here, and until we get to a place where people can see that and experience that on a better level, then, it’s very difficult to make any kind of progress. We have that in three different tiers.
We have it first in a concrete tier where people are projecting, about concrete things, and they become principle-based, but they have a difficult time understanding anything that deals with complex adaptive systems.
RLW: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
TOF: We have it in a subtle tier where complex adaptive systems are part of all of that, and we can see how they get shaped, and how they shape us. So we have a responsibility to shape those systems in a way that is healthy for everybody, but we can’t do it unless we can see how we’re projecting our own stuff on those systems, and those systems are projecting their processes out on other systems and other people and that sort of thing. And so adaptability is the critical thing there.
And of course, we have the third tier where we look at not only the whole planet, but we look at all aspects and all of history, and how the trajectory of the whole of everything has evolved from the very, very beginning, and look at all of the patterns of the way that evolution has come about, and so that we can find, not only the ways that matter is defined, but also the way that all of life comes about. Here we are in this world of mind that is very good at making all kinds of things up, especially if we think it’s going to make us satisfied, and so we have to look within our own minds to find out, how is it that we’re going to be healthy there, so that we can take care of all aspects of this planet and of all of the universe here that we live in? And that’s not an easy thing to do. It’s a very complex, as you mentioned, and yet it’s humans that are doing all of this, so we need to look at ourselves as a species and pay attention to how we are developing as a species ourselves. And that to me is one of the critical aspects of a good life, is not only to be very reflective about what we as individuals are like, but reflect on what we as a species are like, and where we’re going, where we came from, and how we can correct some of these patterns that we’ve had in the past instead of just repeating them over and over and over again, only on a more complex level.
RLW: Absolutely, and when you described those five, I think it was five stages, from what, you know, the beginning to interpenetrating, correct me if I’m wrong here, but those show up at those three different levels, right? In the three different tiers?
RLW: So I can interpenetrate in a concrete way, yeah, by doing?
RLW: Working, fixing something or, making something together with others.
TOF: Following the rules.
RLW: Yeah, following the rules.
TOF: Yeah, following those concrete rules of behavior, and everybody has to do it so you become the same that way.
RLW: The basics, the ABC of good construction, you know. (laughs). Whatever it is that we’re building, we need that because we’ve got to have people whose primary focus is building our infrastructure, making things work. That’s what civilization, from the ancient Romans forward, requires.
RLW: Sewers and, aqueducts and hot baths, and buildings that don’t fall down, and bridges and roads and all sorts of things. Then this second tier that you’re talking about is the subtle tier, which is the conceptual, stage of development, right? So, now you’re playing with ideas, more than concrete things, but those ideas turn that into concrete outcomes for others. Then in the third tier, we’re able now to be less individualized, more world-centric, see the whole global system, as it were. We’re no longer concrete or subtle. We’re looking at things from … What would the word be to describe that perspective?
TOF: We start looking at things from the perspective of awareness. Being aware, and, being aware in the moment, and developing that, kind of, as our identity instead of identifying with just our concrete body. You don’t lose your body but you actually, can go beyond that, instead of identifying with the subtle things, like, that’s my idea, so I’m gonna copyright it and patent it, and own these subtle things. You begin to look at things from the perspective of your identity is more coming more from a place of awareness, and that is a very broad kind of perspective that you can learn to take.
And, we have people that are growing into that tier now, and of course, there’s health at that tier, and unhealth at that tier, as well. So, the whole point that we’ve gotten to–my brother Kim and I had worked on this quite a lot. He’s a psychotherapist, and does a lot of work with the STAGES model– and what he’s seeing in his practice, and what we’re seeing in the work that we do, is that it’s important to start with health from the time a baby is born, and bring them through all these levels with the healthiest process that you can, and they don’t fall so badly into unhealthy processes when they have a good upbringing and have a capacity to live healthily. But we’ve got too many people that are traumatized. If you can imagine with all the wars we’ve got going on in this world today, the trauma that people go through puts them in very unhealthy place, so it’s important to do what we can to see that trauma cleared up and taken care of, and this is what we’re doing, you know, we have to do for our neighbors as we do for ourselves in many ways.
So, creating evolving systems that will support, you know, the parts of our planet that are unhealthy, is really important too, and developmentally, I think it’s, critical that we look from a place of awareness so that we can really hold the whole of everything in a way that we can see the areas that need to be worked with, so that they will be developed healthily, and support the health that’s already there. And, so the development isn’t so much of a stair step, but it’s a little bit more like a balloon, and it flows. It’s simply a flow from one place to the next, in a healthy way. And since it’s really the human species that is making decisions about what is happening with this planet now with our own behavior, and our own selfishness, and our arrogance, and the struggles that we have trying to get what we want, it is we that should be looking from a wider angle if we can, and try to make ourselves as healthy as possible, so that we can do what’s good, which is what you’re advocating.
RLW: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. Because we’re coming to the end of our allotted hour, I think there’s a lot of meat in what we’ve just been discussing, and I know we’ve often used some technical terms, which might have confused viewers who are not familiar with the fields we’re both operating in, but I would urge them, if they were interested, to check out some links attached to this video, and to take a look at the different, kinds of work that have contributed to us being able to have this conversation, because to be perfectly frank, this method that we’re talking about is still not a widely spread phenomenon amongst the human population.
TOF: No. It isn’t. But most people can be metacognitive and can be aware in very, very many ways. They may not be so much aware that they’re aware, but they can certainly be aware of things that are harmful to other people. So, developing your awareness at every stage is an important part of learning what to do.
RLW: I was going to say, yeah, that the stages of concrete, subtle and meta-aware, you do have this reciprocity and this interpenetration, which requires to acknowledge there’s something bigger than yourself that needs to be prioritized, and that if that doesn’t work, then it doesn’t work for you either, you know?
TOF: Yeah. That’s right.
RLW: There’s an old African saying … Well it’s a word called “ubuntu” which just means, we’re all in this together.
TOF: It’s the truth.
RLW: And at whatever level we’re at, it’s true. Because whether you’re in an ethnocentric, tribal world, or world-centric, you know, we understand the bigger picture, it’s still fractal. It means that at every level, there’s something that’s important that needs to happen, for something to happen at the next level, and vice versa.
TOF: That’s right.
RLW: It’s like people saying “Oh, my vote doesn’t count.” No, your vote does count, because the elections are determined by how many people like you vote, and you know, if you don’t, the other guys win, and then maybe, you know, the good things don’t happen, or the bad things start happening.
Well, Terri. It’s been, as always, fascinating to talk, and I don’t know if there’s any sort of final thought you might have to close us off, especially on how are we going to get out of this mess we are in and move forward. We’re in such a global mess. But, can we do it? There’s the real question. Are we going to make it?
TOF: That is something that we all need to weigh deeply in ourselves, I believe, and as a human species, see if we can, come together in a way that can support our planet and, on our own, and our own becoming. I think that’s a very important part, but I really love the work that you’re doing, and your concern. I can feel it so deeply. I can feel your concern and your worry, and I know that’s going to carry out into the audience here, and you as a leader, an Integral Leader, have a lot of background in these areas. You’ve covered the globe many times, and you’ve done many kinds of businesses, and you know, my work, from my perspective, is I just want anything that I do to be helpful with the kinds of processes that we as human beings need to do to take care of one another, to take care of ourselves. And that’s more important to me than anything else.
And so I’m hoping that my efforts can be of support in some way, and that’s what my research is about, that’s where my heart is at, and I think that those of us that have this underlying, commitment and passion, somehow, with all of our different areas of expertise, hopefully will come together somehow and find a way to be kind to one another, and to help build a good life for all humans and for all species and for our atmosphere, and for our planet, and for all of the history of this world that we are so fond of, and take for granted.
RLW: Well, that’s a very good note on which to bring this to a close, and I just want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview today. And also, to repeat a simple phrase that stuck with me from years ago, this very simple adage of: “Take care of yourself, take care of each other, and take care of this place. Now, that’s a good starting point, right? However you define it …
TOF: Yes. Thank, thanks so much. It’s such a delight to talk with you.
About the Authors
Dr Robin Wood advises leaders and organisations world-wide on designing and delivering thriveable strategies. Over 4 decades he has worked with hundreds of Global 1000 clients and also created several commercial and socially innovative startups. He advises the Thriveable Investment Fund and focuses on developing leaders and boards capable of delivering thriving futures. He is the author of eight books, dozens of articles, and has won many awards for his writing and speaking.
Terri O’Fallon is a researcher, teacher, coach, spiritual director and designer of transformative containers. She does ongoing research on the Integral STAGES developmental model which supports a MetAware tier with two later levels of development.
Terri is a partner of Developmental Life Design, which creates programs based on the STAGES model. She also is a partner in Pacific Integral, which creates transformational programs in later level Leadership. Terri holds Masters degrees in Special Education, in Spiritual direction and an Integral PhD in Transformative Learning and Change.