Integral For the Masses: Taster Menu

Integral for the Masses / July 2005

Keith Bellamy

We live in interesting times! I had thought that I was beyond being shocked and surprised at the changes I see taking place all around me. But a headline in the London Evening Standard in April of this year proved that this life still has a trick or two in store for me yet. What, you might ask, was this seminal event that acted to change my perspective on the world yet again? In due deference to any elderly readers of this column, I’d like to suggest that you are sitting comfortably and suitably braced before I proceed.

In a study undertaken by Restaurant Magazine of 600 restaurateurs, chefs, food critics and industry experts, a British restaurant had been named the best restaurant in the world. No your eyes are not deceiving you, the Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire was considered by this panel of the hardest to please individuals around as the best eatery on the face of the planet. What’s more, seven of the top twenty restaurants on the list were British. The conjunction of Good Food and Briton has almost been the definition of the word oxymoron; what has been going on?

It would appear that the world of prepared food in my home country has been undergoing somewhat of a transformation and has evolved to the level where it now sets the standards that others aspire to. More than 25% of the restaurants on this auspicious list are in the United Kingdom. Leading this quiet revolution is a young man called Heston Blumenthal who has, since he first opened the restaurant in 1988 been quietly experimenting with techniques to combine flavours to create culinary experiences never before experienced. To call what he does Cooking is almost insulting, Mr Blumenthal occupies the world of Molecular Gastronomy. His creations arise from the application of physical techniques to the molecular structures of food to evoke a molecular response in the taste papillae of the recipient’s mouth.

Whilst I have not experienced these delights, I am informed that most of the Fat Duck’s clientele opt for the “taster menu” where for a mere $175 per person, excluding wines which cost another $120 per person, you can experience the delights of such dishes as: Snail Porridge; Roast Foi Gras; Sardine on Toast Sorbet; Salmon Poached with Liquorice; White Chocolate & Caviar; Carrot Toffee; and Smoked bacon & Egg Ice Cream! My son and wife are planning to visit this establishment in the next month or so; I shall give you an update at some later time.

As I contemplated the concept of Heston Blumenthal’s taster menu, I realised just how powerful a mechanism it was for introducing his clientele to his ideas and concepts around the evolving world of gastronomy. More importantly, it creates the opportunity for him to receive feedback, which he feeds into the creative mix establishing a virtuous spiral that has pushed him to the top of the heap according to his peers.

Whilst I have no illusions of being pushed to the top of my personal heap, it struck me that it would be wonderful if I could modify the taster menu to provide a wider experience for the readers of this column and as a consequence engage you to respond and feedback to some of the hair-brained ideas around Integral Leadership that I am toying with at any one time. We called this column “Integral for the Masses” in the hope that you will respond, contribute and participate in the process that focuses on allowing the masses to become integrally informed if not necessarily integrally conscious.

So without remorse or regret I present to you my taster menu for Integral for the Masses. Full size versions of these subjects will be available in later issues of the Integral Leadership Review. This menu is not as extensive as that at the Fat Duck, but with your help, assistance and suggestions we will be delighted to add new subjects for your delight and delectation. Until then please enjoy the following samples of Integral for the Masses future dishes.

  1. Does Leadership really matter?

I thought that I would start with a little blasphemy, especially amongst the cognoscenti who participate in the multi-billion dollar worldwide leadership development industry. The immediate reaction of many will, I am sure, be “what a dumb question.” Yet in my experience, it is often the dumb questions that can provide the greatest insights into what is happening in the real world.

There is a growing body of evidence that suggests for the vast majority, the answer to this question is No! Take for example the recent elections in the United Kingdom. Tony Blair led his New Labour Party to an historic third term of office at the beginning of May 2005. Although his majority in the House of Commons, which gives him the ability to pass legislation, was cut drastically, he retains the ability to serve a full term of between four and five years.

More significantly, he was returned to number 10 Downing Street with slightly more than 21% of the popular vote. This marked yet another low point in a continuing trend since the end of the second world war. Due to its anachronistic “first past the post” system, a British Prime Minister does not need a simple majority of the electorate to take office. When apathy is the dominant political force at play, this figure drops drastically, as we have seen this past May.

The point I am trying to emphasise is that a significant proportion of the British electorate seem to be indicating that they do not believe in the current leaders of the country or that leadership is particularly important in Today’s UK society. But what if we are experiencing a phenomenon that reflects the changing nature of both society and its underlying culture? As more and more individuals and communities start to act in a less hierarchical and more horizontal manner in all aspect of their lives, perhaps the role of the leader as we know and understand it is no longer as significant as it was in previous stages of development.

In agricultural society the ploughman was the lynchpin of the community. His ability to till the land and prepare it for the coming season’s crops made all the difference between surviving and thriving. As we moved into the Industrial Age, the ability to deploy machinery to undertake the role of the ploughman effectively supplanted his supremacy. On today’s farm, is the ploughman important? Sure. But nowhere near as important as he was.

In the full blown version of this taster I want to explore a number of other examples which suggest that we are on the brink of supplanting the leader as we knew him and her. I want to understand whether the focus, especially in the commercial world, on leadership development is really an attempt to hold on to a bygone age, or if we are developing something different but are attempting to wrap it in the mantle of leadership in order to sell it to HR directors as a panacea to their problems. Nietzsche said, “The limit of my world, is the limit of my language.” Do we need to expand our language in order to remove some of the limitations on the world of leadership?

Please join me on this voyage of discovery.

  1. Ritual vs. Spiritual Leadership

My wife and I were recently staying with friends on the Island of Nantucket. I always enjoy seeing how the “other half” live even though I have no desire to join and participate in their chosen lifestyle. Whilst there, I was struck by a particular paradox. Here was an island that was inherently beautiful down to Mother Nature’s handiwork over the centuries, yet the focus of most people’s attention was on the properties that were being built and the asking price at both the top and bottom of the market.

Now it struck me that the first colonials who moved to Nantucket did so out of necessity! Its natural harbour and the passing migrations of the Whale populations made it an ideal location to thrive and prosper for the New England Whalers. When Oil was discovered and drove down the value of Whale Blubber, these communities were replaced by individuals who were attracted by the natural beauty of the landscape. Over the generations, the natural beauty was supplanted by attempts to locate their principle homes in the midst of this natural beauty.

It struck me that coming to Nantucket for many had moved from being a spiritual experience to a ritual experience, and this started me wondering whether one of the major causes for the mismanagement and maladroit leadership of the world corporate in recent years was a reflection of this same syndrome? Put bluntly, do our current captains of industry practice the ritual of business but have they lost their sense of purpose as to why those rituals were developed in the first place?

Today’s business schools are churning out MBA graduates at an ever-increasing rate of knots. They know all the rituals of running a business, but do they know how to connect to the spirit of the business and how to connect to the greater calling that their organisation has in the wider market economies in which they operate.

In the full version of this taster, it is my intention to explore more fully through an integral lens the rituals of commerce and how integrally informed leadership can reconnect those rituals with the spirit of the enterprise. Again, I would really appreciate some company on this journey and invite those of you who are interested to join me on this venture.

  1. An Integral Leader’s response to terrorist attacks

The events of July 7th in London serve to remind us of just how precarious are the societies and cultures that we have built in the Western world. The impulsive or opportunistic acts of a small group of fanatical individuals can act to destabilise what we have come to accept as normality. Attacks like this open wounds in the fabric of our societal structures and cultures. Just as a body wound needs to be taken care of to avoid infection so it is for the collective wounds inflicted by radical fanatics.

Our appointed leaders stand resolutely together on a single platform in Scotland in response to more than 50 lives being lost and 700+ injured. Yet the actions that are implemented do not seem to change or reflect that it is precisely because of similar actions following other attacks that led to these current attacks. Within the integral communities the Internet is ablaze with wild and wonderful analyses. One person will argue that this latest attack is a clear indication that the perpetrators are purple/red! This is countered by another claiming that it is the excessive orange of the west that is suppressing the communities from which the bombers come.

This may be 100% correct; but it is also 100% useless in informing the integral leader of the appropriate response that can break the current vicious negative spiral. Here in the US the incumbent leadership revert to their literal reading of the bible’s “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” and requisition even more military strength in the belief that might will prove right in the end. In Europe, the leaders quote Ghandi as he points out “an eye for an eye leaves the world blind.”

Yet there might be more in the depths of this quotation than at first appears to be the case. An eye for an eye is possibly the most misunderstood phrases in the western bible. Through the ages, the sages have taught that it does not mean doing the same back to those who have caused you harm. It means that you take appropriate actions that exact a commensurate response on the perpetrators.

Killing individuals who have, for whatever the reason, no value for human life is not a commensurate reaction and just adds fuels to the flames of the burning embers left from the previous heavy-handed and ham-fisted response to a previous attack. In the fuller version of this taster I am looking to explore how integral theory coupled with the wisdom of the ages might help define an appropriate response to the terrorists for an integral leader.

  1. Integral for the Masses manifesto

The Integral Movement is gathering pace and, according to all the rumours emanating from darkest Colorado, there will be a number of announcements in the fall of new initiatives. This can only be perceived as good news, however I retain a lingering suspicion of a subtle form of elitism permeating the whole movement. Don’t get me wrong; I do not have a problem with there being an elite tier that takes responsibility for breaking the ground intellectually and pragmatically.

But if Integral is ever to become a force for good in this crazy mixed-up world in which we live, then it needs to be adopted by the masses and not just part of some exclusive club that requires an extensive working knowledge of Sanskrit in order to participate. Whilst the aims of achieving Integral Consciousness are all well and good for the majority of souls alive today that is not possible. What is possible for a significant proportion of this collection is the ability to allow Integral Theory to inform their lives.

This is not new, within all the major traditions, the leadership have established customs and practices that are predicated upon higher-level values and beliefs. The important thing is that the individual benefit from following the custom or practice without having to necessarily know all the intricacies as to why it works as it does. Integral for the Masses is dedicated to helping to establish such customs and practices leading to a world where more and more individuals are integrally informed in all aspects of their lives.

Over the coming months, I am hoping to develop a manifesto for this embryonic movement. This manifesto will be shared here with the readers of the ILR before being taken into the wider world. I do not believe that I have a monopoly of ideas and thoughts around this subject, and would welcome all contributions to the development of this hopefully seminal document by the end of the year.

So there’s the current taster menu. Enjoy and please let me know what you think. Whilst I hope that the ideas and concepts provide you with food for thought I have to issue one small caveat, there is every possibility that new and unexpected dishes will appear in this august organ that have not been alluded to above. I am afraid that is the chef’s prerogative.

One final thought, maybe we’ll take the emergence of molecular gastronomy as a subject to put under the integral microscope to understand whether this is just a state or an established stage. Of course, it might require some fieldwork along the way. Anybody interested in participating?