Notes from the Field: EuroConFab 2007 September 28th-30th, Dalfsen, The Netherlands Hosted by the Dutch Node of the Center for Human Emergence(CHE)

Notes from the Field / January 2008

An in-depth follow-up on Helen Tichen Beeth’s review in November

EuroConFab 2007 LogoDouwe DronkertIntroduction

I was asked to report on this event I attended in the process of my internship—researching what it is that CHE the Netherlands actually does. I think CHE offers society invaluable insights, tools and practices that will become the transformational drivers of the 21st century. A student of religious studies and worldviews in Amsterdam myself, I write this piece from a deeply felt caring for the world. I will share insights and dynamics from the ConFab through which hopefully more people can increase their response-ability in these rapidly changing times.

As miraculous reality is, exactly what I experience results from my growing understanding of our roles and the influences on reality itself. Becoming more conscious of reality expands our consciousness of what leadership is actually about. If we look at reality as one large evolving interconnected system and we want to stimulate positive change for a better and more sustainable future, we must look at the part we personally work at to contribute to that lofty goal from an integrally informed perspective, taking the whole into consideration.

The EuroConFab was facilitated by and for people from diverse fields and backgrounds. They all sense a growing urge to approach things in a more holistic, integral, manner. From the perspective of the evolution of consciousness, these individuals are certainly leading in their fields by daring to look from a radically different viewpoint that transcends the status quo.

“That’s what entrepreneurs always have done; they’ve sensed that something new was needed in the world, and they just became deeply committed to it and did whatever was necessary to enact that…The central ethic of leadership is foresight. It’s not the only one but it’s a central ethic. The key capacity for leadership in the current state we’re in is the capacity to enact new realities” (Joseph Jaworski)

CHE offers tools and knowledge on these new realities and how to engage with them. This ConFab brought together people from many fields of study and practice who are able to apply their knowledge and tools to exchange with and inspire others. It was the large diversity that turned this event into a very interesting one. They looked beyond personal and cultural horizons and recognized fractal-like issues in all fields being addressed or spoken from.

In this short review I will address some of the common challenges and dynamics we all encounter in pioneering into a new integral era—addressed from different perspectives in Spiral Dynamics (SD) integral language. All perspectives are views on reality, and inform us of certain of its qualities. So even though some perspectives don’t seem to directly have anything to do with leadership, they can definitely shine light on valuable pieces of the puzzle, one that we are all engaging in every moment.

Integral Applications

I found some recurrent themes underlying several of the plenary sessions with speakers from IBM, the Dutch Police Academy, the European Commission, and the Dutch Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment. In all of those accounts, individuals presented their personal journey through restructuring their organizations, while starting to operate from an integrally informed perspective and apply whole-systems tools in doing so. They shared with us both their experiences of applying integral tools to their organizations and their personal experience of that.


Starting points were the individual pioneers’ visions focusing on values-driven management in current command & controll (SD Red-Orange) and bureaucratic (SD Blue) organizations. But, as they encountered, value-focus (SD Green) alone often lacks direction and effectiveness through not being able to accurately address different values in different contexts. Also, the proactive attitude needed for successfully transforming the working cultures to a higher level needs at least SD Yellow insights and tools to enact on those organizations. The main tools that were used were Wilber’s 4 Quadrants, Spiral Dynamics, Chaordic Design, U-process, and a linkage model.

Start Small

Two main points of focus were identified: short-term actions from long-term vision, and the relationship between them. The long-term abstract vision in every case was the driver for the whole initiation of the process, but the steps to go there were mostly determined along the way. Obviously, long-term always starts with short-term steps. But appreciating the small as these people talked about and seeing the path as the goal is not common in business today.

Simple things such as being polite, showing appreciation, listening and maintaining dignity brought together in the saying ‘walking the talk’ are things leaders and managers in companies talk about, but to quote Rene van den Berg (IBM), “nobody does it”. So starting to “behave the way we would like it to be” (Liane Lankreijer, Dutch Ministry) is the first step. As you can imagine, this step is actually endless and should be ongoing. In SD terms walking the talk is, among other things, also exactly what differentiates 1st tier from 2nd tier with the latter striving to align actions with intention. This forms true integrity, which is expressed through reliability, transparency, commitment to a larger purpose and tangible real-life results. Transparency might not always be essential though; the first year of the process at IBM was practiced secretly.

In focusing on all small steps along the way, I heard people speak of the necessity to slow down. This is something that is not easy and certainly not welcome in orange business. In wanting to move further it seemed important to start looking at everything that’s already there and relate to that in new ways in order to facilitate emergence. In this ongoing exercise several topics jumped out as important:

  • not-knowing (being open-minded and not attached to outcomes),
  • the acknowledgement of fear (which kills all creativity & development),
  • accept mistakes (which are inherent in any developmental process and would rather be looked at as essential for transformation),
  • trust in the process,
  • responsibility (.eg. not attending a meeting if not appropriate or tipping a colleague to attend it),
  • guts


The change processes were all initiated by the individual pioneers’ walk and talk. Key for a small core group of people in the company to adopt and cooperate with this new approach had been collective training sessions on integral theory or applications quite early in the process. The pioneer had then already laid some initial tracks and formed ideas through which they could quite easily approach like-minded colleagues to jump in and join the mission.

Also the attitude to teach people to drive themselves helped in adoption amongst a larger group of people. Encouraging them to actually speak what they think and see, inviting feedback and making progression visible were enablers for that growing sense of autonomy. This very much contributed to a more co operational culture at the office. Smiling employees work more effectively with more effort, which increases customer satisfaction (linkage research): the amount of orders goes up: increasing sales and profit.

Dashboards, communication walls, newsletters and other means of communication were actively thrown in the organizational ring, to share and highlight what’s going on. Especially at IBM they measure everything, but explicitly sharing what is done with feedback, measurements etc, also shows why things are done in certain ways so that people have insight in the effects of each others actions over time. It shows them how they are connected to the larger system and purpose so that they can actually behave as a more effective part of it and consciously contribute, which is especially fruitful when their effort is being rewarded, even if just with a personal word of gratitude.

This shows Yellow’s capacity to see humans as beings rather than resources, within a larger system that has directionality. By consciously aligning individuals with the larger purpose, people can actually really add value through their work and in that find a source of meaning in their lives. Yellow’s capacity to take multiple perspectives allows a specific case to be looked at from different angles and dimensions of being, enabling an integral decision to be taken, informed by a larger more integral whole.


Taking multiple perspectives, connecting dots that are already there, having no fixed goals thus enabling what needs to happen to emerge: acquires a profound sensing capacity, which demands time and focus. This is a big challenge people encounter in the organization and themselves. Time for reflection and integration of learning points, feedback and the fruits of the effort and hard work are in my view crucial for a sustainable, wholesome, developmental process that transcends and includes the current situations.

Organizational Evolutionary DNA

Worth mentioning is Gaiasoft, integral business performance and transformation software.In it the 4 quadrants come together. Trough the software individuals intentions and the collective vision can be measured and implemented in the organizational strategy which can then start to operate in accordance with its principles and implement action learning.

More collectives are becoming increasingly capable of tapping into a higher collective intelligence (for example through U-curve processes). Difficult is it then to translate this heightened state-experience into -and integrate it in- organizing structures so that the higher, integrated, more complex and wholesome visions on the current situation can actually mean something practically in the long run. Making the soft hard, manifesting the subtle in the gross, Morel Fourman (founder of Gaiasoft) called the templates of Gaiasoft “the DNA of organizational evolution”.


In the whole process the speakers experienced great happiness every time little changes occurred. On the other side of the coin, they experienced great resistance, fear, insecurity, loneliness and even jealousy for the accomplishment of great results. Persistence, trust and contact with other people in this pioneering integral era -like on this conference- bring comfort, but on a deep personal level I recognized a deep loneliness in the speakers. I guess that’s why in higher developmental stages spirituality seems unavoidable, and a sangha can be so important.

Last Words

Rene van den Berg was at the ConFab the last day of the quarter and not at his office. I was told this was quite remarkable, but Rene didn’t seem to bother at all. He did not have a clue about the numbers and percentages of his business units’ performance, just a lot of faith since the last year everything has been continuously steadily developing…

I think the above is a very interesting example of integral practice. Unfortunately I didn’t receive the slides from the presentations so I could not show you numbers or percentages of results.

The ConFab was serious but fun as well. The underlying theme was embodiment.

I think we should be aware of the art of transcending AND including: Many practitioners don’t seem to ‘like’ green, express they want to transform it and go beyond, and though I definitely think this is necessary, I also sense people want to transcend for the sake of transcendence and in that maybe not wanting to face what’s most close to themselves. In this I am including myself.

I also believe that there should be more time taken into account to actually look at what’s already there, and from there becoming informed what next steps are.

Reflection is necessary to add value. Not connecting the dots means a fragmented approach instead of a whole-systems approach.

From my own experience, structural contemplation of my own experience dis-covers insights of dynamics I go through which turn out as fractals for what wants to happen or is already happening out there. By personally dis-covering those insights and personally learning how to relate to things in new ways, one becomes the best and most reliable tool for leadership there is.

Many people use ‘the 4 quadrants’ when looking at organizational change. I think there are many dimensions to those quadrants when looking at organizational effects; I often miss companies addressing an integral set of ‘stakeholders’ (and thus many sets of 4 quadrants). ‘Stakeholders’ which are also indirectly influenced by a companies’ activities but which I don’t hear a lot about are the environment, families of employees, and consciousness itself as a non-local timeless field. What are cause and effect if we look at a larger time-frame, for example evolution…how is a company manifesting itself in that ‘market’?

To end, I was struck to hear how the ‘simple things’ as described in the beginning of this piece are so extraordinary in daily business life. As a 23 year old grown up in highly developed postmodern culture in the Netherlands, I ‘naturally’ experience these green SD qualities of relating to one another, and am quite recently becoming introduced to the dominant ethical and moral codes in large business corporations. I was quite shocked and envision very interesting times now a new generation is entering the working fields.

Douwe Dronkert is a 23 year old Dutchman studying Religious Studies and Worldviews at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. He is currently concluding his research-internship at the Dutch node of the Center for Human Emergence (CHE), centering around the question ‘(How) does the Integral Evolutionary perspective the CHE organizes itself from, benefit its stakeholders?’. He is a founding member of SIFE VU, a student organisation offering students from all disciplines of the Vrije Universiteit opportunities to translate their growing awareness of the world around them into applicable solution-driven competences by setting up innovative projects addressing social needs. Douwe is very interested in the potential and spirit he sees in his Generational (Y) peers and is learning how to integrally organise SIFE VU in order to facilitate and simultaneously connect that potential with a larger purpose/context.