8/15 – Luxury Ecology, Cradle to Cradle, The Cog Lab, Integral Budapest Bash, SOL rising in Paris – Spring is CONFERENCE SEASON IN EUROPE

Brian Van der Horst

Brian van der Horst

Brian van der Horst

Brian van der Horst

The world does not sing the praises of Paris in the springtime for naught. For the sphere of integral leadership, it was certainly is the season for international conferences to be jolly at in France– generally listed as the world’s top vacation destination, with more that 32 million people visiting the capital last year.

I’ve attended four unusual conferences in the past two months that demonstrate the wide range of sophistication, currency and effectiveness of the Integral Movement in Europe: “1.618 Sustainable Luxury,” which hosted the kick-off of the Cradle to Cradle community in France; the “Cog Lab, a start-up tech incubator in the hot quarter of Saint Denis;” the Integral European Conference (in Budapest, the Paris of Mitteleuropa); and back in Paris the Society for Learning’s “SOL Global Forum. ”

First off, “1.618,” in case you don’t remember, is the golden mean, or the mathematical ratio so beloved in architecture, painting, design, music and aesthetics. Charmingly enough, it is the name of the organization that presented the first “Sustainable Luxury” conference — an ecological lifestyle, art and product fair for the 0.1 percent of the world. Held in early April and supported by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication and Industry and various organizations like Canard Duchene champagnes and L’Oreal cosmetics, this trade and business strategy forum ran a Day-Glo spectrum of from the ridiculously sumptuous to the ecologically sublime.

Decked out on two floors of a third of an acre (6500 m2) at the Careau du Temple in central Paris, Sustainable Luxury boasted pricey cars from the electric BMW 18 to electric roadsters and battery-fueled handmade motorcyles and pedal bikes shoulder to shoulder with stands offering “naturally inspired jewels with a conscience,” environmental designed houses, boxed oysters, yak hair coats, psychedelic paintings, arty photography, teas, and footwear; “Sustainable” hotels and travel agencies offering ecological voyages to five star hotels from Thailand and Tahiti to Tibet. My favorites were a hand-made mini vaporetto for champagne cruises of European canals and a personal solar glider (below). When I asked how much these bagatelles cost, I got the traditional “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it” response. For more details and photos of the conference, see


Now the good news about this convention was on the basement level. Alongside a gallery of eco-art (recycled junk collages, assemblages, and metro dust sculptures) was a 250-seat conference center which kicked off the three day event with the launch of Cradle to Cradle Community in France. Cradle to Cradle is a biomimetic, regenerative design movement that has created healthy ecosystems of design, architecture and manufacturing. Founders Michael Braungart and Willam McDonough’s work in the past two decades have created astonishing innovations from building ecological cities to rugs and fabrics so safe that you can eat them( unlike most current products that contain multitudes of carcinogens). If you don’t know their work, do not pass go, keystroke immediately to

The French C-to-C Community has been co-founded by such organizations as the Nicholas Hulot Foundation, Integral Vision, the Lateral Thinking community and an impressive list of French commercial organizations. Recent meetings have featured Dephine Batho, formerly France’s minister of ecology, sustainable development, and energy; and various representatives of national industry, associations, political movements and company executives. Their site,

You can see the whole initial Cradle to Cradle conference presentation in English and French at

Other speakers at this upscale convention addressed the following burning issues:

  • “Timely topics and Constructive debates “on Point of sale to dynamic Retail 360° Sustainability (Round table HEC – 1.618 Sustainable Luxury);
  • Sustainable development, is it a Luxury?
  • How does sustainable development stimulate creativity and desirability?
  • Luxury and Sustainable development, mystery and transparency;
  • Luxury Consumers in Emerging markets: what are their expectations, their culture and their habits?
  • The Rehabilitation of Mediterranean Red Tuna;
  • SLOW Life, the Luxury of TimeSmile City – Today’s City, Improved for Tomorrow.
  • Reconciling luxury and empathy, a new challenge for the future.
  • SLOW tourism, Myth or Reality?
  • Contemporary Art: Symbiosis or Parasitism?

The next stop on my springtime conference hegira was at the first Meet-Up of the Cog Lab, which describes itself as an incubator for implementation of the cognitive sciences, digital art, , neurosciences, computer and bio-hackers, artificial intelligence and biotechnology.

Their idea: an interdisciplinary mash-up of modern neuro-science, bio-hacking and technology for young scientists and entrepreneurs., They are underwritten by the City of Paris, who has given them a communal laboratory of 750m2 in the heart of the red light district for those who —in their words— geeks, PhD’s, students, hackers, designers, artistes, engineers, researchers, sociologists and philosophers. One of the more interesting accomplishments of this group is that they have already invented and commercialized some products, including “Fing Bodyware,” a series of wearable digital interfaces, and in English:


I don’t know if this phenomenon is current in the States, but here in Paris, a great variety of meet-ups are becoming the kick-off platforms for serious high tech ventures. Check out your local area, and take a glance and some of these organizations:

Information Technology Production:

Paris Polyglot Coding:

New Technologies:

Alternative Digital Realities:

Paris Siliconwadi, nanotech,startups, Israeli high-tech: – search/meetup/146d8a6e6fbfac64

Budapest in May was my next stop for the first International Integral European Conference, a mad scientists and artist’s ball of gargantuan proportions organized by Bence Ganti and Dennis Wittrock, stalwart leaders of the German and Hungarian Integral movements.

Held at the multi-salon exhibition hall of Buda’s Millennial Park, the conference showcased 124 speakers holding forth on practically every imaginable, (and some inconceivable ) aspects of the Integral Movement. After leading the group in a hootenanny round of singing the “Integral Chant” —“integral is here” to the tune of “hi ho, nobody home” — Bence and Dennis gave an introduction to the origins and staff of the conference. Here’s an overview:

On Thursday, I counted 310 people in the opening day audience– which meant almost half of those attending the conference were also making presentations. Friday, Saturday and Sunday usually offered four or five interest tracks, such as Psychology, Education, Politics, Leadership, Gender, or Coaching, with several presenters taking the floor in each salon for 20 minutes. Before each breakout session, presenters (around 40 a day) each performed a 30 second “elevator speech” on their subject to allow the audience to choose which group to attend. Sort of like the vintage TV show American Bandstand, for you old enough to remember or google it. “It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.” pic4

Keynote speakers included Ervin Laszlo, fittingly enough founder of the consciousness-oriented Club of Budapest, who filled the hall with his signature kaleidoscope of ideas, swooping from a “turbine theory” of consciousness, Near Death Experiences, Akashic, holographic and quantum theories of everything, and presented a credo of evolved consciousness.

Quoting from his forthcoming book “The Immortal Mind” (#76?) Laszlo sounds like street poet these days, reeling off his ideas in a sort of Integral Rap Music performance. You can read his credo it at

pic6Ken Wilber next spoke and fielded questions from Colorado on movie-screen Skype about how Europe was so much more sophisticated than the states

Indulging in some friendly Yank-bashing, (“In the 1700s Europe sent their convicts to Australia and their psychotics to America”), Wilber complimented Europe for being the most manicured continent on the planet, and the “only place ready for world emergence.”

A stand-up comedy act rounded out the day’s events, a duo called the Integral Roadshow:

The next morning, Roger Walsh, MD and Ph.D. professor of psychiatry, philosophy and anthropology at the University of California, and one of the key pioneers of the Integral Institute in Boulder, Co appeared on video, giving one of the wisest and most statesmanlike presentations of the mete on “The State and Future of Integral,” calling for “good work of the highest quality” from practitioners, and becoming “gnostic intermediaries” capable of “imbibing vision and wisdom… Mastering the concepts and language of the audience… and translating concepts of wisdom into community wisdom.” Take a look at the presentation at for his whole discourse on adult development, spiritual disciplines, a comparison of conventional and trans-conventional religion, and the use of psycho- technologies.

It’s probably impossible to summarize the breadth, depth, and variety of the presentations and workshops on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

You can get a fast idea by looking at the program PDF here:

From my humble perspective, the conference work sessions went from intensely academic permutations of Integral Theory, to various applications of integral to a multitude of consciousness, holistic, energy, nutrition, bodywork and other new age stalwarts. Many new pinhead angel counting models were revealed, such as Dr. Reinhard Lasser’s 3-D model of the Wilber Quadrants and Levels (above) to a potpourri of workshops dealing applying integral theory to architecture, psychology, economics and finance, sustainability, education and religion.








pic9Another remarkable keynote speech was given by Susanne Cook-Greuter, the international expert on Leadership and mature ego development, on Saturday morning. A refreshingly poetic address to the emotional and experiential qualities of moral development; here is an excerpt. For the whole address, go to

Because so many of the attendees to the Budapest IEC gathering asked for it, I share here   the contemplation offered at the end of my keynote address on Saturday May 10th. It invites you to access your simple and most benevolent self. The meditation came to me while on a visit to Rio de Janeiro in 2008….

The image (on the screen behind me) shows the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio is one of the largest cities in the world with over 12 million souls living in its precincts. Amazingly, the statue can be seen from almost any direction and any spot.

Feel into your posture of the statue: arms spread-out, soft belly, gentle gaze; heart wide open, and yet standing grounded and firm as a rock. You are the still point…you are benevolence…You are equanimity…… With this gesture you are blessing everything that is around you, the people with their triumphs and failures, their joys and sorrows, their beginnings and endings.

You bless the earth, the water, and the sky; you bless the good and the bad, the true and the false, the beautiful and the ugly alike without judgment.

Thereby you sanctify all existence with your solid, unwavering presence, your equanimity, benevolence, and compassion.

Saturday night was given over a goulash saturnalia. That’s right, a pagan ceremony situated on the deserted plains of Hungary, amid caldrons of the national stew and barrels of beers. Dancing, singing and cavorting were had by all:

pic10 Sunday morning, in one of those historic bungling’s of what must have seemed to be a great technological innovation, the group was asked to open their web browsers on their smart phones and computers to the conference hall’s Wi-Fi network, and to vote on their favorite presentations and appreciations “to create a sociometric profile of the group’s psyche present in the conference.” Unfortunately the set-up couldn’t handle more than 30 subscribers at a time, and the back and forth frustration of trying to log in was tantamount to intellectual waterboarding.

At the end of the formal sections of keynote addresses, Dr. Robin Wood’s closing presentation on “Cutting-edge Solutions, Thriveability, and Integral Prayer” was a torrent of ideas, information, and integral cheer-leading. For a peak at his prayers and answers, take a look at and

The conference organizers went off to a VIP dinner at a local castle, and went on to another three days of Hungarian tourism “the ultimate integral sightseeing experience” for those who could stay around and pay the fares.

In all, the span and depth of this conference marks a watershed event in the Integral Movement, and will either be a harbinger of a truly international cluster of disciplines, or we will look back years from now and wonder where all this energy went. I recommend logging on to and seeing what interests you, and if you want to participate into making, for what we are reading this magazine, a truly global reality.

The Society for Organizational Learning’s three-day Global Forumwas the final conference on my Euro-tour, and took me back to the City of Lights last month after attending a few conferences populated by people working to integrate with the business world, it was refreshing to see our kind of people actually accomplishing something on a global scale.

Although several organizers and speakers, such as international leadership expert Alain Gauthier (a member of the ILR editorial council; had come like me, directly from the integral Budapest Bash to Paris, hardly anyone I met mentioned Integral or Ken Wilber.

Yet nearly all whom I encountered at the Global Forum were living and accomplishing the integral movement’s goals and values.

For an overview, take a look at!the-global-forum/cixr

More than 400 attendees from around the world, and some rather impressive business stars had gathered around the theme of organizational “Metamorphosis.” As the conference’s team wrote:

Why (“Metamorphosis”)? For many of our organizations, the challenge is no longer small adjustments but rather true transformation, metamorphosis.

For who? You are looking for innovation and inspiration for your business, your organization or association. Whether at the beginning of your project or already engaged, you want to share issues and experiences with other players from different backgrounds. The Global Forum is a platform, open to hundreds of companies, institutions, and associations from around the world, to explore together their emerging futures.

How? A BOTTOM UP and FIELD approach starting with “astonishing stories” that can become “learning stories” Enlightening contributions from keynote speakers who will share their views of possible futures Workshops that help participants deepen key themes and domains and share stories about teamwork and related issues they face. Team sharing in “base camps” around the discoveries, ideas, and learnings collected during the forum journey – from the beginning to the projects Open Space An open invitation to outside guests and civil society to join us for a World Cafe to build desired futures together …In order to raise awareness and facilitate the emergence of collective intelligence around participants’ key issues and global concerns.

The conference was organized around a first day of sharing real world “learning stories” of successes and useful failures.

Workshops were scheduled for each afternoon. One of the most endearing elements of the conference was that they had hired a team of professional artists to draw representations of each day. On the first day, outcomes and goals were defined in domains of education, governance, sustainability, inner transformation, and leadership. For example:


Art paperboards were used throughout, visuallpic12y chronicling each workshop.















On the second day, coaching teams were assembled around the people who had formulated projects they would like to accomplish as an outcome of participating in the conference.   Guidelines were posted for each step:



pic15More than 50 projects were articulated by the participants, and placed on display boards so that those who wanted to assist or participate could select a mission:





Each morning in a plenary session, Key Guest Speakers included:

  • Former British Foreign Secretary Lord David Owen, a neuro-scientist MD who has also been chairman of the petroleum company, Yukos International UK BV. Who spoke on how the “Hubris Syndrome” was challenging the transformations of organizations.
  • Xavier Quérat-Hément, Directeur de la Qualitéof the French national mail and banking Groupe La Poste. Who told how applying SoL’s approach had earned him and the post office the « Best Customer Relations Director of the Year Award » Outgoing La Poste president Jean-Paul Bailly spoke on the SoL method in action.
  • Bernard Schaer, Director of systems and engineering projects at SNCF– the French National Railway; and Frederic Delorme, Director of SNCF’s World Operations . on how they produce client satisfaction between the public and 4000 of their personnel.
  • Gilles Poirieux. Managing Director at Sodexo, Inc. the leading provider of integrated food and facilities management services in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, with $6.7 billion (USD) in annual revenue and 125,000 employees.
  • Albert Kruft CEO Secretary of Solvay’s European Works Council, on social diagloque and sustainable development
  • The World Bank’s Knowledge and Learning Manager Ani Dasgupta, and Vera Wilhem on Learning and Delivery for international development.
  • Adam Kahane, previously head of Social, Political, Economic and Technological Scenarios for Royal Dutch Shell in London, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (San Francisco), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (Paris), spoke on managing complexity with power and love.

If you want to see the individual presentations from the above, go to where SOL has put up many of the conference presentations.

In case you’ve been meditating in a cave for the past 20 years, SoL was co-founded in 1997 by Peter Senge, the MIT Sloan School of Management, and author of the famed “The Fifth Discipline;” and co-author with Otto Scharmer of various “Presencing “ books. Co-founding SoL with Senge was Arie de Geus, former Managing Director of the Royal Dutch Shell Group.

Peter Senge

Peter Senge

Andre de Geus

Andre de Geus









Peter Senge’s work is centered aboutfive learning disciplines. These five disciplines come together to form a system (a whole).

  1. Personal Mastery is the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision to create the results most desired.
  2. Mental Models are deeply ingrained generalizations and visions influencing how we see and understand the world and how we take action.
  3. Building Shared Visions builds a sense of commitment in a group.
  4. Team Learning is the transforming conversational and collective thinking skills, so that groups can reliably develop intelligence and ability greater than the sum of individual members talents.
  5. Systems Thinking integrates all five disciplines, fusing them into a coherent body of methods, tools, and principles, all oriented to looking at the interrelatedness of forces, and seeing them as part of a common process.

For a detailed list of how SoL seeks to operate like the above, see :

The SoL Global Forum was that rare species of convention—an event where top professionals gathered together with world-class movers and shakers, not only to share their wisdom and experience— but to actually get something done. Congratulations to the design team that produced this richly complex event. You can meet them at

At the end of the three days, the 50 projects conceived at this conference stood a good chance of being realized. Of course, we don’t know how many of these often ambitious undertakings will find the money, people, and sweat to birth them, but in the 50 years that I’ve been going to meetings like this, it looked to me like the best midwife you could imagine.


P.S. Just a couple of personal notes. I first met Heidi Sparkes Guber, the out-going president of SoL, and co designer/organizer of the SoL event 35 years ago. She was standing in the middle of the Felt Forum in Madison Square Garden, giving a seminar on transformational consciousness to around 5,000 people. Four decades later, it was a joy to see how much that we hoped for then has been realized in global proportions today among some of the largest entities in the world. For a peak at her spirit, try looking at this two minute video:

P.P.S. Peter Senge reminded me that we shared the same stage with him for the first business presentation I ever gave; as we were leading workshops for a consciousness development organization. That year, I also co-authored the document below, which was the first publication of the idea of the company as a learning system. Hi ho.pic22


About the Author

Brian Van der Horst has been a management trainer, consultant and executive coach since 1977.  IN 1984, he began to live and work in Europe, based in Paris where he founded Repère, an international training institute, with two French consultants, designing and teaching certification programs to more than 10,000 people world-wide. In 1994, he founded a coaching school, and has certified around 300 coaches. For the past few years, he has been an Program Development Director for Renaissance 2; and a founding member and Chief Facilitator, Europe, for Ken Wilber’s Integral Institute. Previously he was director of the Neuro-Linguistic Programming Center for Advanced Studies in San Francisco, and a consultant with Stanford Research Institute in the Values and Lifestyles Program of the Strategic Environments Group.

Van der Horst has taught at John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, California; The California State University, Sonoma; the University of Paris XIV, and XIII; and Apple University, France; and has given seminars on intercultural management, negotiation and communication for MBA students at the Sorbonne, the International Management Institute in Paris, and at the Institut d’Administration des Enterprises in Aix-en-Provence. He has also given leadership, team-building, and long-term management training seminars in Moscow, Sao Paulo, Hong Kong, and Indonesia; along with 10 countries in the European Community.

He has worked in journalism as an editor for New Realities, Practical Psychology, Playboy, and The Village Voice. The author of the books, Folk Music in America, Rock Music, and The Outcome Strategy; and over 1,000 magazine and newspaper articles, he has also been an acquisitions editor for J.P. Tarcher Books, Houghton-Mifflin, and hosted a television program in San Francisco. He currently writes for Intelligence, a newsletter on neuro-computing. Before this time, Van der Horst was originally trained in marine biology, but shortly after attending Duke University, worked in the entertainment industry for 10 years, serving as Vice-President of the Cannon Group, and as Director of Advertising and Publicity for Atlantic Records. Van der Horst has been listed in Who’s Who in the World since 1994, and Who’s Who in America since 2007. E-mail:


  1. Heidi Sparkes Guber on August 23, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    Thanks Brian!
    So wonderful to share these decades with you and to look, with such joy and satisfaction on the continuous unfolding of the worlds we love! Come see us in Santa Fe soon!!

  2. Eric Allodi on August 24, 2014 at 7:50 am

    Dear Brian,

    This is a brilliant article.
    Thanks a lot!

    Warm regards

  3. Pierre Goirand on September 9, 2014 at 1:27 am

    Great writing as always – a window into these events for those who had to make other choices – nice to have taken the time to summarize for the newcomers what Senge’s 5 disciplines are about


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