Fresh Perspectives: Integral Futures: A Conversation with Christopher Cooke

Fresh Perspective / October 2008

Christopher CookeRuss VolckmannRuss: Great to have the chance to talk with you, Chris. Where are you this week?

Chris: I’m literally 200 meters from Edinburgh Castle in Scotland. It is a country that’s having the courage to ask the hard questions about how to lead through a significant transition. I’m in a very aware and heightened state.

Russ: Other than Don Beck, I don’t know anyone who seems to be traversing the world in the name of integral and Spiral Dynamics Integral more than you.

Chris: That may be true. I’m humbled by your comment.

Russ: I’ve been aware of you and your work for several years now. When I first heard of you, you were in England. The next time I heard about your work, you were in Texas and Nebraska. Then, the next thing I know you’ve got something going on in Switzerland. Now you’re in Scotland. I think it would be really interesting to hear how all those travels came about.

Chris: In the Spring of 1997 I committed myself to the practical demonstration of an integral practice and, at that time, specifically Spiral Dynamics. I’d not come across Ken Wilber at that time. Don Beck had been to the U.K. a couple of times working with us. He was going through a significant transition, because they really hadn’t worked out what to do since he’d come back from South Africa. I was a senior manager in a British company at the time, operating internationally as well as in the U.K.

I left the Water industry in ’97 and set about building a new practice as a coach and consultant. I went into as many locations and situations as possible from a purely integrative perspective. I started a joint venture with a business partner. We demerged that in 2001 because he was finding it difficult to focus in such a singular manner—I now call it “sweet spots of integral practice”—so from 2001 to this day, we’ve been all around the world.

The practice that I’ve developed is called, “Walkabout with Purpose.” Every project is an adventure, and most importantly to me, success is when we’re no longer meeting. There are vast ranges of opportunities out there. Everywhere I go I find those who are ready to engage in solutions through local activities. Since 2004, I realized that there was something significant in the way I was presenting this work so that people really could grasp it by offering a cosmological frame or context. Since then I’ve not looked back.

We’ve got a whole range of people around the world who are working with us and are active in Australia, South Africa, the States, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Scotland, Wales, England, Canada and Eastern Europe, Latvia, Ukraine, etc. What’s important to me is that we have arrived at a watershed where we’re now taking the experience of the last 12 years and saying, “What does this mean?”

Russ: The impression I have is you’ve been doing training programs—internally and externally—related to Spiral Dynamics integral. You’ve worked in education systems, with nonprofit organizations, corporations. What are you doing with training currently?

Chris: The training is one of three themes that we focus on. I offer a thought-foundations training in Spiral Dynamics Integral. Back in ’98 when Don first came across Ken, there emerged a 4-quadrant/8-levels perspective that primarily is the main theoretical framework that we offer. My outcome is that everyone should ideally leave the programs able to apply their learning immediately. I offer a ‘deep’ self-focus, a very personal, experiential focus, which applies to all the all the work we do. My view is that the individual needs to be able to understand themselves and their life’s journey from a truly integral perspective. We start off with public or private introductions and then we run the full-circuit Spiral Dynamics Integral programs Level I, Level II and beyond.

Russ: I’m aware that one of the areas you were requested to train in—and actually did some training in—was for consultants in another consulting company. If you’ve done that training internally, and you’ve done training internally before, are you able to use that criteria in selecting participants?

Chris: In the internal work, probably less so. What we tend to find is that many organizations that are working internally, the first point of contact would be an introductory-level conversation. Then we leave it to self-selection in the group. In terms of working with internal consultants, I believe it’s true to say that everybody who we work with ends up working with us over the longer term.

What we’ve seen over the last 12 years is a growing consortium of aligned interest, both in the public domain as well as within small- to medium-sized consultancies. Many of them take on some of the services that we offer, like the People Scan Cultural Survey Technology. They find that immediately applicable in any context. That’s a great relief for me, because the use of that type of technology becomes their own learning vehicle for the application of the work.

Russ: So that’s an example of the training work you do. What is the nature of consulting that you do?

Chris: Basically, I’ve been reframing traditional consultancy. We offer a support and advisory service to individuals and people in organizations who know that something needs to change but are not sure what it is.

One point on the training: remember that we don’t just train Spiral Dynamics Integral. We have quite an extensive portfolio of other core skills that we train with as well. For example, I actually specialize in large group processes, so I’ve been practising for years in the different technologies that are available for large groups.

Everything we do is offered through an integral frame. For example, I did some work in Dubai recently where the client doesn’t know we’re explicitly informed by an integral frame. What they’re looking for is a more spiritual approach to leadership. When I listened to what the client was looking for, I designed a large group process that equipped them with an understanding of how to navigate through chaos and to prevent premature organization. Those attributes, those qualities and that awareness then become a stepping-stone towards a lengthy and more specific integral conversation.

Russ: Could you say a little bit about how what you’ve just described relates to spiritual in that context?

Chris: The distinction I’d make in that context is that there are many individuals within organizations who deny authenticity to keep the political form of the organization functional. I call that a very pseudo-state; the individual is acting, behaving and speaking in relation to the norms and practices of the organization while their own internal voice is saying something different. What is important about that for me is to get to a space where you can start to legitimize a conversation about what it means to be an inspired organization with a strong spiritual core. We have to get beyond that pseudo-state to a place where they can speak with authenticity.

Each stage of development has its own authenticity. To use Jean Gebser’s terms, authenticity, which is transparent spiritually, is the direction these organizations want to move into. But they don’t necessarily know how to do it. So the approach I described creates space in which they can touch and start to engage in transparency, which leads to engagement in new conversations. To summarize what we do: we help them fundamentally to reframe their awareness of what’s possible and what it takes to implement it, or finding the appropriate approach that takes them to more integral appreciation, which then leads to integral curiosity.

Russ: From what I’ve read of your work and as I listen to you now, I am reminded of the attitude, if you will, without the integral and developmental in the same framework, of what I would call “West Coast United States Organization Development Consulting.” What I mean by that is that it involves starting with where the client is at; it involves not giving advice; it involves eliciting from the client what is real for them and helping them to think about it and consider it in fresh ways in order to look at potential action to take from there.

Chris: Exactly. And obviously what we’re doing is acting from a particular space of new insight to new opportunity. What characterizes lots of our work in organizations is that we’ll normally be working at the invitation of one individual who has already started to work with us on an integral conversation. So it’s true to say that 95% of our work that ultimately gets into an organization follows on from 1:1 work with individuals from our coaching practice.

Russ: I understand that part of that involves the subject of leadership because you have a perspective or an approach that you call “intentional leadership.” How does that relate to what you’ve been talking about?

Chris: I need to first explain what I mean by “intentional.” A number of years ago, if you’d come to work with us in the U.K., we would have said that you need to be integrally informed, you need to have a competency set that allows you to work freely across the full spectrum of stages, and at that time one of the requirements was that you had to be a master practitioner in ‘Integral’ NLP. The third requirement was that you would be working with an individual who offered either a very Shamanistic or spiritual connotation to the work, because we believe the individual needs to be able to access the space beyond thought. Prior to your choosing to do something, there’s an indefinable space. We bring that indefinable awareness to mind and then we act.

I went to Central America to understand the magical, mystical world of ‘purple’ in indigenous cultures. I wanted to access the pure code. I discovered a whole culture that had a language and refined energetic distinctions. They practice touching the indefinable and they called it “intent” or “undomesticated energy” or a number of other terms—there’s a whole range of terms. But they also have the energetic practices to reinforce that. It originally caught my attention, because these people all learned to live at 16,000 feet. I looked at the life conditions in which they operate and I realized that these energy practices weren’t because they just enjoyed doing them, but because it was essential to their continued survival at that altitude. If you don’t have a functional community or tribe, you’re not surviving. So the term “intent” to me—and we have a whole range of energetic practices that go with that—is the ‘undomesticated’ or “clean contact” with the individual’s representation of source at their specific stage of development.

Then intention becomes the point where we bring ‘will’ to bear on a given situation. The power of the mind cuts in and intent becomes Intention. A process results that is intentional.. What I’m doing in the work is smuggling in, “Intentional Leadership,” it carries a spiritual connotation, which for me reflects the transition to second tier, an integral frame. The intent shifts here to becomes more explicit as a life in total intent. That is the energy of the leadership of today that we’re looking to support.

The other way I describe our practise, Russ, is that it’s almost homeopathic. We have a very effective diagnostic now. We can scan an organization, using the Culture Scan methods and in a matter of minutes of getting the data we can analyze where the hot spots are in the organization. We speak to those individuals who will be the key in relating with the clues to the future of that organization. This diagnostic ability that we’ve developed is highly attractive, because what we’re looking for is attempting to get a sense of the dynamic of the complexity of the system, which is, as Ken would call it, “the magic of the we.” We try to get a sense of the dynamics of that culture, that structure, those systems to get to a place where we can assess whether it’s evolving naturally or whether there are gaps and issues that need to be dealt with. In homeopathy it’s a very similar process. You look holographically at the whole system. Based on what you observe you either choose to do nothing, which in some cases is the appropriate way, or you can choose to do a little tweak. We basically describe our practice as “space-working.” We operate in a space between traditional approaches to organizational change. We shift the barriers to the organizations self-organizing capability.

The third scenario: if you’ve got a gangrenous toe, you’ll need surgery! We cover that range of approaches, but most significantly, we do not engage an individual or an organization with the basic assumption that something needs to be done. We approach it with a cosmic curiosity as to what is really going on within this organization and how can we create, with them, the life conditions in which the individual or the collective can work things out for themselves.

Russ: I’m reminded of the butterfly effect. It sounds like there is something like that in what you’re doing.

Chris: Totally. And obviously the more we do…every event is an adventure! Just last week I did a program in Scotland that has drawn me back here because the client who hosted it wants to implement the solution next week. I held the workshop with 30 people, all of whom were either practitioners or leaders within the Oneness University Movement, are you familiar with this?

Russ: No, I’m not.

Chris: I was invited in because, in 2002, I met the person who owns the center—it’s called Oneness University. We actually worked together on a holotropic breathwork event and we became friends.

They were committed to holding an event where they wanted to look at the strategic future of the Center they run in Scotland. We used a full-scale model of the spiral, laid out spatially on the floor for individuals to understand what it meant to them. They also came to understand what it meant for the organization. They then learned collectively to design their future aspirations. They were invited to look back in and design from a true integral turquoise perspective as best we know how. The results were just amazing—so much so that I’m going back in next week. This shows the speed of things we do. On Monday for three days we will create the business plan and get a New Foundation implemented. This should be done by Wednesday. That’s another characteristic of what we offer: if things need to happen and if you’ve aligned with the core purpose of ‘human emergence,’ we find things happen very, very quickly with very little provocation.

Russ: That’s quite remarkable. It’s quite different from the more traditional approaches where things seem to take forever.

Chris: Yes, and excuse me for my enthusiasm. I’m trying to explain what we do to inspire others. I really want to attract people to a new conversation, Russ.

I often mention that for many individuals and organizations the change has already happened. They just need to learn to grow into it. A significant difference between the way we operate and 99% of consultants is that there’s a contradiction—it’s not in the interest of many consultant groups to get the job done quickly, because it’s a contradiction to their business model. We have a fundamentally different business model that is not motivated by time spent with client, but a primary motive of getting the client to move themselves; success is when we are no longer needed!

When I talk about it I get a little glow because I’m pleased with what we’ve done. I also know that there’s so much more that we’ve got to do, and that’s the phase we are in at the moment.

Russ: When I think about leadership, I like to make the distinction between “leader” and “leadership.” I’ve noticed that David Day in Australia and others have begun to do this as well. When we talk about development, for example, we talk about leader development, which is the individual, and leadership development, which is really more the collective or systemic and cultural dynamics of leadership and leading in a system over time. I’m wondering if those distinctions have any significance in the work that you’re doing.

Chris: What’s significant to me is that I believe that what we’re seeing is the start of a complete redefinition of what it means to be a leader, or even leadership as a dynamic. If you go back in Spiral Dynamics, Clare Graves really had a good understanding of this that obviously influenced Don Beck. We’re looking for individuals who, in the moment, carry a signature, a cosmic address that’s just half a step ahead of the group to allow that resonance, coherence and alignment in which progression can occur.

One of the problems we’re working with is that the bulk of a conversation on leadership is looking back in from the first-tier perspective. This is the idea of leadership that was based upon a hierarchal or success-focused paradigm where leadership is done by an individual. What I believe, in creating a 2nd tier leadership conversation, is that the first aspect is that the individual who has the capacity to lead in this complexity is increasingly aware, is resourceful and is able to manage effective relationships, and is able to understand the dynamics of the emergent life-process so they don’t get in the way! This results in a tremendous increase in flexibility, which then influences systemically the whole.

What we’re also finding is that in the transition to second-tier, the individual alone cannot cope with the complexity. What I believe is really important is to encourage a form of collective leadership, not from a communitarian perspective but from a place where the individuals are operating with distinct autonomy, yet in a place of aligned communion. For me, it’s this dance between the “I” space and the “we” space that creates the intelligence that will allow us to navigate through what we’re seeing.

Presently, what I’m seeing the most of is emergence of what I call “leadership dyads,” two people who can find ways of working together that are truly remarkable. They become self-referencing, they basically look after each other in this significant transition, but the collective energy they hold as two almost creates what I used to call “the third soul.” It creates a third signature within itself, which becomes the attractor field to move into, engage and lead in the appropriate context.

Russ: One of the metaphors I like to use is if you really want to understand what’s going on with the leader, take a snapshot or a very short video of what’s happening in a system; but if you want to understand leadership, you need a movie of the life of the system in which you see leaders coming and going, emerging and receding at multiple levels of the system, whether in production, management or the relationship with the environment. What I’m hearing you say is very much in harmony with that, but I wonder about whether you’re substituting for the notion of the individual as leader the notion of this dyadic approach to leadership, because that feels like an institutionalizing of the roles, and I don’t think that’s what you intend.

Chris:No, what I’m trying to say is that what I’m observing is emerging naturally. This creates tensions in itself, because most organizational structures or forms are still sustained by institutions like the professional HR structures, which don’t allow that form of leadership to occur within an organization. Every aspect of the organization is at odds with that ‘new form’ of leadership. I think what we’re seeing is the end of the present leadership paradigm. That’s part of what we’re seeing in the shakeout within the economic system in that it’s truly a space in which the next form of leadership will emerge.

Russ: You referenced “second-tier” and “turquoise” specifically in your comments earlier. It seems to me that in most systems, it’s going to be relatively rare to come across people who are prepared to be second-tier or who are in a second-tier space in relation to their work environments. I’m curious about your observations on that.

Chris: One of the competencies that I think we really understand now is that you need to be able to know how to spot second-tier in a conversation. It’s not observed through behavior in many cases. In my experience, I’m finding many, many people who are making this significant second-tier transition. There are more people who are looking back into their organisations and society from a higher altitude than many would care to recognize. I found this consistently in education and all forms of organizations, be they public or more commercial. I find it specifically in geographical areas, like Scotland.

I originally didn’t plan to be here this week, but I made a call to one of my clients in the beauty sector; he had been in a Spiral Dynamics training I did in 2002. He’d been studying Ken Wilber for 12 years. His favorite description of his practice is “the practice of pondering.” I met him for lunch yesterday. We had a really fascinating conversation. He was able to identify—individual after individual—influential leaders across the social system who are ready for an integral conversation. These are individuals who have been transitioning through orange and green over the last 10-15 years. They’re now, because of life conditions, starting to realize that something else needs to happen.

The problem we’re finding is that the main need for these individuals is to find a new language, a new metaphor structure and a new means of communicating what they’re experiencing. It can either mean in this transition that they think they’re going crazy and keep very quiet about it or they can see what needs to be done, but they don’t know how to engage it—they don’t have the means of creating a collective conversation, nor design capability, that can offer a way forward..

My estimate is if you look at the life conditions of a country like Scotland, you go to the urban centers and look at the intensity of what’s happening, I’m expecting you to find at least 20% of our population here in that second-tier transition.

Russ: That’s an extraordinary statement in light of what we’ve been hearing for the last few years—and perhaps a cause for optimism.

Chris: I’m very optimistic. I spent a lot of time in the heart of healthcare at the Texas Medical Center—I was there for two years. I was invited in by somebody who, when he first met me, looked me in the eyes and said, “I have absolutely no time for anything you guys are doing.” Three weeks later after he’d been to the workshop and the conversations held afterwards at his house, he rang me up and asked if I could help him. (laughter)

He had the guts to do it. It involved the separation of a hospital system from its medical school. I’ve not come across a situation where that’s happened before. So I went to work with him, because he was the first physician to take a whole department of pathology into a new medical school. It was a significant change process.

One of my roles was to coach or support all of the new incoming chairs that came in to the medical school and form the research center. I cannot tell you the joy I had where I could get into the system and find second-tier thinking emergence. Senior surgeons were saying, “Christopher, I’m so relieved I can talk about this, and now I can understand what’s been going on.” They had been observing and considering how they could change medical training. For example, heart surgeons are still trained in the same way like they were 30-40 years ago when the heart was dying and they were trained do their work quickly and get out. They don’t need to be trained like that anymore. Here I found physicians preparing for fundamental transitions within their profession and choosing to lead it. There were whole departments of research that were hidden away in the organization and were saying, “We will fund the research ourselves, which gives us the freedom to do the research we know is important. But we also know that in order to do that, we’ve got to be pretty creative in creating wealth.”

Russ: I do get the gist of that and it sounds quite remarkable. While you were in Texas, which is where Don Beck hangs out when he’s not out running around the world, it was there that I imagine you met John Smith. Is that correct?

Chris: I first met John Smith in 2003. He pulled together a whole systems change network and I went with Don Beck and Marilyn Hamilton to represent Spiral Dynamics. For whatever reason, I outlasted all the others and John asked me to go and work with him in fall of 2005.

Russ: We did an interview with John Smith for Integral Leadership Review—I don’t know if you saw that or not—but it’s in the archives. We’ve been very appreciative of his support. I notice that he is also involved with a new project, or at least it’s new to me, called ISAN. Can you tell us about it?

Chris: ISAN is an integral template that can be used to support a transition of an individual, group, city, region or nation. It’s something that I first started to develop in 2003, because I realized that what we were creating was going to be very different. I also committed that whatever we do with our clients to the next generation design of organization systems we would test-drive ourselves. So when John asked me to a specific engagement in 2005, I was able to take the original idea, which is called “imaginal resourcing,” and demonstrate how to utilize this template in John’s organization as a homebuilder, and also in the personal support that we bring to John.

Russ: Could you say a little about what “imaginal resourcing” means?

Chris: Originally, the term “imaginal” came from the “Evolutionary Biological Metaphor,” about the metamorphosis of caterpillar to butterfly. In the meltdown of the caterpillar, the new life form, new cells, new DNA, are called the imaginal cells. “Imaginal resourcing” is designed to specifically support those imaginal minds—the new psycho-social DNA that’s emerging—to increase the chance of it successfully navigating a critical transition, because all the antibodies from the earlier systems come out to try and kill it off. The metaphor was to build a system that could resource and support the critical mass, the new intelligences that would lead us into a new era, a new epoch, a new civilization.

Russ: It sounds like the scope of what you intend with ISAN and imaginal resourcing is really quite extraordinary.

Chris: It is. It’s one of the things I’m wrestling with today. We’re now at the stage where it almost has a life of its own, because as we’ve started to tell the story to selected individuals each one who comes into this chooses their own field of operation or how they want to manifest it. What we’re seeing at the moment is the building of the support infrastructure. Today, for example, we’re looking at a project on integral research into autism and another looking at an integral analysis of Nepal. Another is “Project 1,000” in Phoenix, Arizona, looking to scan the U.S. to really start to quantify the scale of second-tier thinking and find the leaders who are able and ready to lead. In Australia this morning there was a conversation about building new Web environments that are beyond social networking, to really help us transition from just thinking and talking about integral and really engaging in an integral manner in as many parts of the world as we can.

So it’s an exciting and testing time for me. On one level, what we’re doing is very simple or elegantly simple, but equally, it takes time for individuals to fully grow into the template, for them to fully fly with what needs to be done.

Are you familiar with the term out of the Tavistock Institute in the U.K.? It is the Tavistock Doll. A child may use a blanket or a teddy bear and drag it around for safety. It’s basically the means by which the individual can navigate through their transition. What we’re finding is the Tavistock Doll for many individuals is the People Scan survey system. That’s the means by which they can create a business that’s applicable to them in their own life conditions. onlinePeopleSCAN is part of a common support system that we’re propagating globally; this is a very flexible, adaptive framework that allows a new conversation to emerge with some consistency across many countries.

Russ: I had an opportunity to meet with Robb Smith at the Integral Theory Conference. We had lunch together and he was sharing in part more about what is happening with that program in Boulder and he published Integral Life Web site at the conference. He first announced it there and it came online the first night of the conference. One thing I understand—and I’m not quoting him—is that the intention is to turn Integral Institute into far more of a research center and integral practice support in the world, if you will. It sounds like there are some parallels with what they’re hoping to do and what you are doing—I think they’ve announced one product in Canada so far that has gotten funding that they’ve been publicizing. Do you see any relationship or overlap between what you’re doing with ISAN and where they are trying to take Integral Institute?

Chris:Yes. I’m hoping there’s a high degree of overlap. If either have any merit, each will in some way truly represent the emergence of our species and enable us to contribute to the emergent process. So from my point of view, there’s an intentional overlap. Also, I’m very aware that in each stage there is a healthy mix of views. One of the things that I’ve been rather keen to do is to get on and apply this knowledge practically – primarily what I’ve been doing for 12 years..

When I first met Ken in 1998, it was in the early the stage of Integral Institute and those were very formative days for me. I was surrounded by people who were talking a lot about integral. One of the themes that I kept on coming across is, “When the money comes through, we’re going to do this, this and this.” One of the first principles of my approach is that we fund what we want to do primarily through our own activities. I’m very aware that we have to focus very much on practical application. We have a strong overlap with the approaches taken through Integral Institute.

I also believe that we actually hold true to a Gravesian point of view, which I believe brings in some distinctions that aren’t yet generally shared or understood across the integral community. It is largely around the Gravesian perspective on the dynamics of change. My hope is that over time we’ll see a new form of collaboration. ISAN to me is a full-time ‘Intentional Support and Advisory Networked Constellation.’ That is the working acronym—it won’t actually be known as ISAN. It will form as another identity. My hope is that what we’ll see is an alignment between seemingly disparate groups, each retaining their own identity. I know that if someone really is offering their services from what I call ‘the sweet spot of integral’, an alignment with the evolutionary impulse, if that’s in place, it really doesn’t matter what the organizational form or name is. If we know that we’re working alongside individuals globally, who are out there operating for the emergence of the Kosmos as a primary motive, then we don’t really need to worry., and We can anticipate, however, that there will be tremendous diversity in interpretation. Over time, the paths will emerge that will lead to new conversations that we can’t comprehend at the moment.

If I have a concern about the application of an integral approach, its is , that a critical mass of individuals stay true to the essence of the work, and really navigate through the next, and sometimes messy, transitions. It’s too easy to get drawn back into the way the ‘old era’ world works and to use Spiral Dynamics language to regress to less complex forms, i.e. go back to an orange/green dynamic. I don’t come across a lot of people who are able to look back at this from a second-tier perspective, certainly in the field of consultancy. Another way to describe it is, there are still a lot of takers of the technology as if it is just a toolkit. They lose sight completely of the essence, of what Ken and Don are really saying: this work is about looking back in from the cosmic frame of reference and choosing to act from a very different perspective, on the other side of the reframe. Unfortunately, I still see a lot of activities around Integral Institute, and the Spiral Dynamics Group, that in the translation by third parties some pretty profound work becomes lost—I call it “slippage.” That’s not a criticism—it’s just a reality that we’ve got to work with.

Russ:ISAN, or whatever it ultimately becomes—what is the scope of application that you have in mind? For example, we’ve been talking a lot about organizations and leadership, and yet you’ve also mentioned potentially its application in a wide variety of fields. I would assume that you’d have an interest or the organization or network would somehow want to include people who are working with sustainability, or what I call “thriving” instead of sustainability, on an ecological level, a human level and planetary level, as well as possibly applications in fields like psychology and medicine and so forth. Is that correct?

Chris:That is correct. The distinction I’d like to bring into the conversation, one that is important for me in terms of the way that ISAN is emerging, is that we learn how to operate in the space between the existing social structures. Many choose to structure their themes of inquiry around education, psychology, whatever. The problem is that just by the use of that label alone, we may actually make it more challenging for the transition to occur. For example, Joseph Campbell talks about one of his teachers saying, “Look Joseph, the best cannot be told.” That is, you cannot explain the new effectively, using language and metaphor from the past. So, in many cases we are trying to explain the new from a past perspective. So what ISAN is doing here, for example when we look into economics, we say we are looking at the dynamics of reciprocity across the human species. This means that conversation involves a fundamental change in thought process. We do need to look at currency, economic systems, etc., but from the first principle of human emergence, which is the capacity to reciprocate, to exchange meaningful transactions, between two human beings, or groupings. We therefore need to understand reciprocity as a fundamental evolutionary issue across the whole spiral to the leading edge of human consciousness. We then custom design the ‘currency’, the form of exchange, to fit the function.

Russ: I’m reminded of Basarab Nicolescu, the physicist in Paris who has been building on work of Piaget in developing transdisciplinarity, an effort to move beyond disciplines into that space that transcends and includes disciplines. What you are describing involves transcending and including the perspectives, positions, structures and processes in comprehension and change.

Chris: Yes, Russ, it is like that. I believe that we are exploring a meta template that will aid our species navigation through our next transition. This is an exciting time as for the first time in our species history we have the capacity to both innovate and set the social conditions, the social architecture, for the rapid global adoption of that innovation. I believe that we will set a new global heading where viable planet—viable species become the short, medium, and long term metrics become the basis for our navigation towards a world that works. What I’m really interested in is finding those who are integral; who act and think AS integral. The other distinction I work with is that today we need to be able to project into the future to act AS-IF we are integral today. The third area I believe we are focused on is the delivery of education where we can teach, debate, and develop conversations ABOUT integral practice and theory. Those are the three themes I primarily work with. I realize that to me what’s so important is this work—it’s not about regurgitating theory, it’s about equipping individuals to keep rediscovering the theory in all these patterns in our species. We need to be able to continue to discover the new by working from first principles. That for me is the best I can describe the dance, the bliss state or flow that individuals may discover: they don’t have to remember the theory if they personally embed the principles and become observant of the patterns unfolding in themselves and others around them. That’s the place of true excitement and joy for me in this world.

Russ: That goes to my next question: We currently have about 2,400 subscribers in over 30 countries with Integral Leadership Review. I think many of them who read this interview are going to ask themselves, “How can I get involved? How can I be connected to the projects that you’re undertaking with ISAN?” What would you tell them.

Chris:I would say the best way someone can align with what we’re talking about is to choose what they’re going to do in their own context at the moment. Choose what they’re going to act locally with, but then find out how it aligns more globally through something like ISAN. Let’s look ahead and imagine a future conversation. After our conversation with me today, I might give you a call and say, “We’re going to do some research here, but I don’t want it to be focused on a particular country. What we want to do is stimulate simultaneous research the world over. It may well be that as soon as we put the call out to all people who might want to participate in the research process, they become data gatherers and become part of the consciousised inquiry. They then become far more informed about their own local practices in this area, discover what is new and might just discover those things they need to ‘let go of.” Oh, and as for viability, the new economic support system will ensure viability through integral reciprocity. And that’s how I envision this working.

The success of all of these activities in this global transition will allow the individuals to choose what they are going to do and if they need support, to know where to go. They will realize that when they seek that support, they’re actually contributing to a collective knowledge that will be able to propagate their knowledge to many others around the world. Think of it as a collective action learning framework which is guided and formed by a very intentional alignment.

Regarding how to get involved, a lot of what we’re talking about won’t be visible until probably spring of 2011. That is deliberately so, because we believe that we’re preparing for a conversation that is yet to be had. We want to be ready for when people say, “Uh-oh, what do we do now?” I want it to have credibility and the capability to respond back. Until then, just contact me.

Russ: Chris, is there anything that we haven’t touched on that you would like to add?

Chris: I’ve really appreciated this conversation as your questions have triggered many useful insights. I’m grateful for that.

Yesterday, during a conversation, I was reminded of a metaphor that is important to me. What I believe is that individuals like you and me are all learning to serve what I call “the open wave of human consciousness.” I would like to say that this conversation, for me, is with the greatest humility and a place of absolute curiosity. If anybody is thinking I’ve given a definitive, “This is how it is,” I’d ask them to visit the conversation again. For me, what you’ve allowed me to do is talk about something I’m very passionate about and in doing so, it refines, polishes and advises me on some of the things I need to do next.

Russ:I thank you very much. I find your efforts and your work extraordinary, very challenging and hopeful. I feel a potentiality in the world right now that I didn’t have when we started this conversation, so thank you.

Chris: It has been delightful. Thank you.