Integral For the Masses: Integral Leadership Steve Frazee on The Gulf Between Theory and Practice

Keith Bellamy

Keith Bellamy photo

Steve Frazee photoAs a student of Integral Leadership can you imagine how it might feel to be told that you are to be the first Chief Executive of the most prestigious integral organization on the face of the planet? More than that, can you imagine what it might feel like to be told that you are going to take on this role when you never applied for it and had not spoken to anybody about it, let alone been interviewed for the job. Yet this was precisely what happened to Steve Frazee in the late summer of 2006 at a meeting to discuss fund raising for the Integral Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Jeff Salzman, then Director of Training at the Integral Institute, a member of its Executive Committee and a major benefactor, announced to an assembled collective of “President’s Circle” members that this was precisely the role that Steve was about to undertake. Whilst Steve’s experience working ‘pro bono’ for the Integral Institute over the previous few months had conditioned him to believe that nothing that happened in Boulder could surprise him, this announcement put him on the back foot. While this was not the role that Steve was hoping to fill over time, he knew that with founder Ken Wilber seriously ill and the organization in deep financial chaos that the ride ahead would be interesting!

However, considering the dire condition he understood Integral Institute to be in, Steve decided that this was not a time for false modesty and set about providing the leadership necessary for survival in the short term and success in the medium to longer terms. During his “first life”, as he likes to call it, Steve was a successful entrepreneur. The company that he helped found in 1994 had grown through mergers and acquisitions into one of the leading providers of services in electronic transaction systems specialising in credit, debit and gift cards. By the time that he and his fellow founders decided to sell the company in May 2005 he had built a portfolio of skills and competencies that he knew could help further the goals of the Integral Institute.

The path that led Steve to Boulder was not too dissimilar to that which many others have followed. Having gone through a fairly uncomfortable divorce, he found himself having to take a good look at and challenge the reality in which he found himself. This led him to Spiral Dynamics as a tool to help him communicate better, both within his business and to the markets that he served. From Don Beck, it was short leap to Ken Wilber along with a number of other thought leaders including Bill Torbert, Peter Senge, and Martin Seligman and the positive psychology movement. He was seeking a way to be of service by applying the practical skills that he had learnt in the trenches and making them part of a broader community of service.

As Steve says, “One of the reasons that I was drawn to Ken’s work was the fact that it allows you to bring all your skills together. From an egocentric, ethnocentric, world-centric and integral perspective it lets you wrap them all together whilst honouring each of the perspectives.”This ability to own and integrate at all levels was like a magnet that drew him to his first Integral Institute workshop in March 2005. What struck him most when he arrived was the community of people who showed up. Steve felt a sense of belonging that it was difficult to experience elsewhere.

It was at this first workshop that Steve was given his initial insight into the workings of Integral Institute. Attempting to leverage the feel-good factor generated in the workshop, participants were given an opportunity to help finance the activities of the Institute. The sale of his company was completing in three months time and Steve felt that he would like to participate at a fiscal level to help the Integral Institute to achieve its stated objectives. However, as a canny businessperson he made one request; before signing any checks, Steve wanted to see the business plan and financials of the Institute.

His request was greeted with stunned silence. He was told that in the history of Integral Institute nobody had ever asked to see these documents before. “Most people give us money because Ken is Ken”, one senior official exclaimed. Steve made it clear that he was quite happy to be the first to make such a request and until he received the documents his hard earned cash was going to stay in his bank account.

But a relationship between Steve and Boulder had been established. As Steve tells it, “ A few months went by where there was no communication with I-I, but later the conversation was revisited. This time I said, ‘Given that you don’t have the financials or a business plan, why don’t I come to Boulder and just begin working? I’ll start donating money monthly to show my commitment, and in return you can show me what is really going on’.

In July 2005 Steve started to offer his services to the Integral Institute on a Pro Bono basis. As he started to peek under the covers of the Institute, what he saw was frightening. None of the basic processes that one would expect from an organization were in place. The Institute was burning money and Steve was asked to focus on developing some badly needed business tools and financial management systems. He gladly engaged in these activities; his reward for doing so was to be around the people who were similarly attracted to Boulder.

Over the next 12 months, Steve attempted to inject some structure and order into the organized chaos that was the Integral Institute. He had no aspirations as to either a salaried position, let alone that as Chief Executive and asked only to be compensated for his travel and living expenses. He was angling for the role of Chief Strategist, which he was prepared to undertake on a pro bono basis. In Steve’s view, the CEO drives the vision of the organization and whilst he could resonate with the vision it wasn’t his vision for Integral Institute. He saw himself as Ken Wilber’s plumber.“You have the vision, I’ll come in and do the plumbing,” he was wont to say on more than one occasion.

In August 2006 Steve Frazee was introduced to the world as the new CEO of the Integral Institute. Whilst some are attempting to rewrite history by saying that he was never appointed as the real CEO of Integral Institute, or that it was an interim appointment, for Steve it was clear that he had to act and act fast. The Institute that he inherited was facing major crises, both financially and with morale. To make matters worse Ken Wilber was out of commission and many felt as if the Institute was drifting without leadership and direction.

The first challenge that Steve faced was to convert the volunteers who manned most functions into a modern, motivated workforce. In Steve’s words, “ It really was a volunteer workforce, and for that reason there were a lot of very young and idealistic people involved. Ken had said a number of times ‘if we are going to get this organization going, we are going to have to hire a number of seasoned professionals.’” Steve set about raising pledges and establishing salary levels and introduced medical and dental insurance, all of which, at a stroke, abolished the indentured servitude, which epitomized working conditions up until that point.

Whilst Steve channelled his energies into establishing some pretty basic functions such as Financial Management Processes, Project Management, and Resource Allocation Systems; he also recognized that he had been given the mandate to build a truly Integral Organization. That was what had attracted him to Boulder in the first place. He was on a personal quest to find out what an Integral business might look like and where better to look for one than at the Integral Institute?

As he set about the challenges at the Integral Institute, it struck Steve that an integral business must, like a person, be a solid and well-skilled first tier organization. The logic behind this assertion runs along these lines, “ If we look at the economy as a system of organizations, and we were to say that most companies in the economy are first tier organizations, I would argue by definition that the economy as a whole is a first tier entity; then an Integral organization must ‘plug in’ to the economy to be effective in the world. To be effective in the ethnocentric and world-centric environment that it is trying to work in.”

Basically, Steve is arguing that before any organization can be considered Integral it needs to have a healthy first tier. He argues further, “…that the work environment, morale, financials—all those things—must be built out or at least the operations of the organization must reflect on them, knowing that they need to be built out. On top of that then comes this wonderful Integral view, which is that the organization can be something more than an entity that just plugs into the economy. It can be more than just a process for material goods or financial remuneration and can begin to ask one question from each of the egocentric, ethnocentric, world-centric and Integral viewpoints ‘What is this organization?’”

In pursuance of this definition of an Integral organization, Steve was on a collision course with Ken Wilber once he returned from his sickbed. As Steve describes it, “ One of the differences I had with Ken Wilber is that Ken proposes an Integral organization has to be filled with Integral people. I disagree with that completely! I don’t think it is a practical means for creating and running an organization.” As he used to argue with Wilber, “ I want the controller of the company to be comfortable with following all of the rules all of the time. Making sure that all the tax documents are filed and bookkeeping is well looked after. I don’t want any post-modern accounting; I want good, solid conventional accounting.”

Steve felt that in the spirit of openness that his differences with Wilber could be aired, discussed and debated in a way that was healthy for the future development of the Integral Institute. With hindsight, he recognizes that this was not the case and that although he felt progress was made at one level, at a completely different level no progress was made at all. As he says, with a hint of regret in his voice, “ I believe that Ken would say that my endeavours at Integral Institute split the organization into two pieces: those who were for Steve or those who were against Steve; or for growth or against growth; or however you want to define those two pieces.

Steve likes to describe himself as a simple individual, which he most certainly is not. What he likes to do, and does extremely well, is take extremely complex and complicated situations and simplify them in order to foster conversation and debate and ultimately the resolution of seemingly intractable problems. At the Integral Institute he liked to talk about the 4 P’s of People, Purpose, Profit and Planet. Most importantly, he attempted to get members of the institute to consider objectives for each P and how the objectives for People or Planet, for example, might impinge on Profit. This focus on subjects in the first tier and in quadrants other than the Upper Left had some individuals calling for the revocation of his Integral Union card.

This didn’t worry Steve as he says, “ The reason that I say that an organization must become healthy in the first tier before it becomes Integral, is not much different from us as individuals. Each v-Meme skill must be acquired. Additionally, we need our basic needs met. If I look at Maslow, as a simple pointing out, we need our basic needs met and belonging before we can move into self-actualization. Companies are no different with the basic needs being stability in the overall economy and participation in the appropriate markets. So if I am running a company that is going bankrupt it is going to be very hard to reach the company’s actualization. I’m sure a company can be run into bankruptcy in an Integral way, but I’d rather not!”

One of the manifestations of what Steve calls the Integral Shadow at play is the way that individuals around the Institute used the colour codes of Spiral Dynamics to denigrate the activities of others. As he points out, “ To say that someone is first tier or second tier as a label, doesn’t talk about the pathologies, the narrowness or broadness of skills.” So when he is looking for a controller for a business, his first objective would be to find somebody with 15 years experience rather than identify somebody whose centre of gravity is rooted in the blue v-meme. Similarly, when he is looking for a sales person he wants somebody who has been doing sales demonstrating an ability to generate a profit and build relationships; not somebody who thinks they can sell because they are cognitively advanced.

Another issue that came up for Steve is the concept that because he was talking business, he was obviously “Orange” and therefore not Integral. The scars from these attacks are still raw as he says, “ There was a time when I was attacked quite voraciously as being Orange.” He goes on to add, “ I have met a lot of people that I consider to be second tier who are excellent business people. I have heard them as well as me labelled Orange because of our business skills.

Steve likes to use quotations a great deal when he speaks to help illuminate a critical point. One of his favourites is, “ In theory there should be no difference between theory and practice; in practice there is.” One of the great things about the Integral Institute was that it was full of extremely bright individuals who were masters of the theory and how it should be applied; yet in practice their experience in applying the theory in the real world was negligible.

One of the biggest drums he likes to beat is in respect of Integral Leadership, “ If I am going to go to a meeting of Integral Leaders, I want them to have led something,” he argues convincingly. “ I want to talk to people who have had to fire 30 people, you know, two weeks before Christmas. I want to talk with people who have had to shut down an entire division of a company. Or have taken a company and made it quite successful; People who have really implemented and lived and embodied the work.”

He continues, “ Too many people I see showing up as Integral leaders haven’t actually led anything. It is great to carry the information and that is important. But I’d like to define the difference between an Integral consultant and an Integral leader. At Integral Institute when very smart, young people were challenging me over and over again on how I was showing up as CEO, I finally had to say, ’You guys have no idea what the role even means.’ To understand what it means to be a CEO only comes from being a CEO.

Wistfully, he points out that the role of leader in any organization is a lonely one. The role of an Integral leader is possibly the loneliest there is as only 2-5% of the population are Integral and most of them have not had the opportunity to really lead. Yet when you are surrounded by bright young Turks, who all know that they can do your job better than you can—in their imaginations at least—one starts to get a sense of the size of the challenge that Steve faced in attempting to turn the Integral Institute around.

He is the first to admit that he made mistakes, but when you are applying financial triage to stop the Integral patient from financially haemorrhaging to death, it is easier in hindsight to see what you should do differently. Steve is a firm believer that trust is the conduit through which all things travel in business. If he had his time again, he wishes that he could have built a greater bond of trust with more people at the Integral Institute than he managed to do.

As an Integral leader, Steve feels that one should expect individuals to sit across the table from you and to argue, “ I don’t understand why you are doing this. It doesn’t make any sense to me.” And they challenge you. That’s good dialogue. In the end, as an Integral leader, you say, “ I’m going to do it anyway.” And they say, “ I’m going to follow your lead because you are the leader.” This conversation can only take place if trust has been established between the leader and the individual.

As he reflects further on the subject of Integral organizations he makes a telling observation, which gives us some insight into his future direction.“Before you see businesses become integral,” he says, “there is a need to focus on what Integral Leadership is. And then you can certainly say more easily than ‘is this an Integral business?’ ‘Is this an Integral leader? Does this person or team show attributes of Integral Leadership?’ I think that is a good first step. I would propose, that you are not going to have an Integral business without an Integral leader. But an Integral leader does not presuppose an Integral business.”

At the time of the interview, Steve had just returned from a trip to Hawaii in part to recover from the bruising that surrounded his departure from Integral Institute, which had happened as suddenly and in as unexpected circumstances as his appointment to CEO. In late November 2006 it became apparent to Steve that the differences he had with Ken Wilber in respect of what comprises an Integral organization and how it needs to be led and managed were irreconcilable.

Having had time to consider and reflect on his time at the top, it is clear that Steve had no regrets as to his tenure as the Integral Institute’s CEO and what he had achieved in such a short period of time. Sure he could have achieved more given time and backing, but he sees no point in worrying about what might have been.

As he says, “ I had the opportunity to sit across the table in a room with nobody but Ken Wilber and argued business with him. I wanted to know what an Integral business looked like, so I went to Integral Institute, I went to Ken Wilber’s loft and we yelled at each other about Integral theory and Integral business. You have got to come away learning something from that.”

And he did. He learnt that high levels of cognition do not make a leader in himself or anybody else. He learnt that the heart component, the trust component and the need to recognise people as manifestation of spirit are critical to the truly Integral leader. Most importantly he learnt what he does not want to be and what he does not want to be associated with in the future.

Since leaving the Integral Institute Steve has been busy creating a network of integrally informed business folk who are determined to establish and nurture Integral businesses for the future. They have in mind an incubator that allows Integral people to come together and develop Integral businesses with practices that can be learnt and repeated. In doing so, Steve Frazee is a name that will resonate for a long time in the sub-community interested in Integral business and leadership.

As for the Integral Institute? At the time of this writing they had been in the process of recruiting a Turquoise or Teal CEO to lead them in realizing their vision and objectives. They have selected that person, Robb Smith. We have to hope that he and they succeed in their challenge, as the world needs the Integral Institute as much as it needs the lessons that Steve Frazee can teach us all from his short time sitting atop of that institution attempting to reconcile the differences between theory and practice.


March 23, 2007: Kudos to Steve Frazee for sticking to his guns to and Keith for putting it so clearly. The Ken’s and Don’s of this world are special people and great teachers, but that does not mean they were meant to lead organisations. I fully agree with the way Steve describes the need to plug into the 1st tier economy; “2nd tier organisation” without a 1st tier base is like a head without a body. This is a particularly difficult challenge, and I believe the real answer to developmental challenges is less “up” than “in”. I have personally incubated and co-founded over 15 organisations in my career, and have found the 1st tier challenges to be the most difficult, and the real test of a leader. Integral Leadership has to be about getting your hands dirty in an integrally informed way, not sitting in an ivory tower, as tempting as that may be for a time.

We are in the process here in Europe of setting up an organisation called “Via Integra”, which will offer integral practitioners in Europe the opportunity to get together and form a community of practice. We are linked into II as members, and enjoy longstanding relationships with a number of individuals in Boulder. I personally learned a lot from an earlier attempt to create an “Integral” organisation called “InspiralWorld”, which fell into the idealistic volunteer trap, so we are now plugging into a real, 1st tier infrastructure to ensure the viability of Via Integra!

Good luck to you Steve—it would be great to share learnings with your integral business group some time. All the best from Perpignan, France.

Robin Wood, drwood@wanadoo.fr

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March 23, 2007: Wonderful insight into what a second tier organization and a path to it can look like. Particularly interesting to me is the lesson for integral salons, and the continuing reminder it’s not enough to just operate a non-profit organization from later stage perspectives, but that the earlier structures must be in place, including legal and financial. It’s not enough to be a benefactor, or for a bunch of individuals to come together, no matter where they might be developmentally, and claim second tier organizational status. Ultimately, if our non-profit salons/organizations are going to stand on their own, they have to be able to pay their own way, either through organized donations or membership fees. Sometimes the reason we seem arrogant is because we are.

Gary Stamper,

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March 23, 2007: What Steve describes seems to be a pretty universal experience for organizations that aspire to more than a profit motive. I definitely have seen Vadjradhatu, which is now called Shambhala International go through this. I think the problem arises from 2 facts. First, at higher stages, persons have indeed more powerful tools at their hands. However, only at the very highest stages can they appreciate the integration and usefulness of all levels. Hence, they believe and insist that others that are spiritual/integral/turquoise are capable, when lower level skills are needed. The ongoing labeling that says if you appreciate orange or blue, you must be orange or blue and therefore inferior will prove to be a obstacle; and regrettably Wilber models this behavior.

The other fact to me seems to be that organizations that do not have a profit motive are a fish out of water in the current system; this is capitalism. Being out of sorts with the surrounding culture tends to cause friction. This could be an interesting point for discussion. Maybe an organization like II should seek profitability first, maybe there is a Maslow pyramid for organizations.

Angela Pfaffenberger, PhD,

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March 24, 2007: Keith, great report! Steve, I already appreciated your act bringing transparency to the I-I organizational physiology as much as inquiring into the nature of Integral Leadership and integral business. I see this all embedded in a greater nexus of evolutionary dynamaics. As I have explored at other spaces, there will be no single entity/organization which represents all criteria simultaneously. No lone wolves/heroes or enlightened individuals. Otto Scharmer, George Por, Andrew Cohen and many others are putting the “WE” in all aspects into the spotlight. Shifting the structure of collective attention.

Shifting the power equation was the theme of World Economic Forum in Davos, too. The Holy Grail for organizational, institutional and personal transformation and evolution isn’t found yet. No matter how far Theory of Everything has proceeded in heads and hearts of change agents and initiatives of all kind, it’s an odyssey with many approaches and starting points, many expeditions to the tipping point and many surprises…to come…And as we celebrate this weekend 50th Birthday of the European Union, Europe and North America have slightly different focuses and mentalities 🙂 🙂 which can be fusioned in fertile ways…:):) Greetings from Berlin.

Albert Klam,,

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March 25, 2007:“One of the differences I had with Ken Wilber is that Ken proposes an Integral organization has to be filled with Integral people. I disagree with that completely!”

This may be a more significant difference than it at first appears. I have heard (and read) Ken give the example of a poker game, with its own level of development, amber (blue) or whatever. According to Ken, groups DO NOT go through stage development in order. In fact, according to Ken, the “stage” of a group depends entirely on the level of development of its members. Thus a poker game that starts with a red center of gravity does not have to go through amber (blue) and orange to reach green. All that has to happen is that red members leave and green members enter. When there are more green members in the poker group, then the COG of that group is green.

Now, my personal experience supports that theory. However, I am not a business person. But I have experienced many, many groups of people in my life—one way or another. So I agree with Ken on this one. Evidently, Steve did not. I think this difference is crucial. IMO “2nd tier” shows up as an attitude that permeates behavior. As an individual who attended ILP seminars in Denver, I will tell you that I was blown away by the integrity and love that I felt there. It is my personal goal to be near that level of attainment as much as I can and to absorb it as I best I can and to bring that level of love and compassion into the world. If I-I were to become merely a successful business entity, this would be a terrible loss for the planet. We have MANY successful business, but few 2nd tier communities. I don’t doubt Steve’s capabilities in business, but when it comes to deciding how to build a second tier community– well, I’m going to trust Ken’s judgment.

Robin Reinach,

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March 25, 2007: Robin Reinach brings up a good point. What is the difference between a community and an organization? The concept of an organization is usually defined as two or more people working together toward one or more shared goals. Many of our Integral peers are steeped in organizational development work where they help organizations identify and obtain stated goals with efficient use of resources. A community on the other hand typically refers to a social group, like a poker game, or club, usually a subset of a larger social structure. Integral Institute is a good example of a 2nd tier community.

I began working at I-I with an understanding that it was an organization that brought the good, true and beautiful to the word with an eye towards a better tomorrow for me, you and all of us. The shared goals of the organization seemed to be: Integral Books, Integral University, Integral Salons, Integral Training, Integral Coaching, and Integral Periodicals to name a few. To achieve these goals experience at a general organizational leadership level (planning and managing) and at micro level relative to the initiatives themselves (doing) were required. I call this running a business and it takes real world experience. Being a club or playing poker really has no shared goals other than communion and a bit of beer drinking usually.

I believe Robin correctly identifies Integral Institute as community and her poker game reference for aggregate altitude is right on the money (bad pun). Each participant only needs to be accepted to the game and know the basic rules of poker. Now if everyone at the poker table starts talking about building a university and decides to stop playing poker and instead moves toward creating a serious center for learning, then the skills of the group, their experience and their ability to organize would be crucial. It is very possible that members of a 2nd tier poker game would not have the skills to pull that off. Altitude is no substitute for experience. 2nd tier individuals can be underdeveloped in the organizational skills typically accrued when an individual hangs out at a blue and orange center of gravity during their lives. Cognitive development does not trump real world experience. An organization that has both individuals of high altitude AND deep experience MIGHT make a huge difference in the world—or it might just be dysfunctional like a company staffed with nothing but CEOs. This is not a Steve vs. Ken issue. It is instead an opportunity for us all to discuss the best practices for building conscious organizations, be that Integral Institute or any other organization. ILR holds space for seasoned Integral Leaders to share their experiences and I am thankful for that.

Steve Frazee,

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I appreciated hearing about Steve Frazee’s point of view. From his description, I-I does seem to have suffered from the lack of a clear organizational structure, which has paralyzed this vitally important world hub. I’m sure that there has been much learning, however painful. However, from some of Steve’s quotes, I already saw what seemed to be limitations in his point of view. He indeed sounded only at the “orange” vMeme to me! One disclaimer before I continue: Ken’s I-theory is a world map, and it can’t be used to guide one traversing city or state, let alone country. I firmly believe that this one fact is causing tremendous misunderstanding, and that people can be guided by I-theory but need to talk to each other with specifics (not “vBlue” values, but needing rules right now, or being too rigid about the rules, etc.). Back to Steve’s I-Orange perspective (from my POV), a person at “second tier” (my def. of this available on request – too lengthy) would hold a world-centric viewpoint while instituting the basic (first tier) organizational structure around money, not operate out of that. “Skillful means” is crucial, and I don’t see that in Steve, from what I understand. A leader doesn’t ignore the views of the underlings and say, “obey me”, because it’s simply not true that all Green is pathological Green. Logic works really well. IMO, the only time to exert control is when the discussion is going in circles. (Green: people who value everyone’s input but doesn’t cognitively find the overarching principles that would hold all views, account for them, and offer a decision that feels “wise” to all.) Where I think that Steve sounds right on target is that I-I needs to stop generalizing about a person’s COG (center of gravity) for hiring (or even Action-Logics alone), but to also account for “domain” of knowledge and experience. An Indigo-COG-ed person may know nothing about organizational leadership. Hoping for other thoughts,

Joanne Rubin,

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Robin, I wanted to let you know that I believe you were correct to point out that Ken and Steve’s opposing views about whether or not an integral organization should be filled with integral people is more significant than it first appears. Furthermore, I completely respect your desire to trust Ken’s judgment. However, I also appreciate what Steve wrote in response to your comments—in particular this point: This is not a Steve vs. Ken issue. It is instead an opportunity for us all to discuss the best practices for building conscious organizations, be that Integral Institute or any other organization.” I was particularly struck by this comment from Steve because it served as a reminder that we need to move beyond dualistic thinking and put into practice a more “integral” approach. However, this isn’t always easy when we are faced with layer upon layer of ambiguity as well as complex sets of motives—which taken together can ultimately give rise to differences of opinion and/or conflict within any given group system.

However, in the book, The Paradoxes of Group Life, Kenwyn Smith and David Berg point out that “opposition and conflict are inherent in group life, that it is folly to treat them as foreign forces to be expelled, and that group vitality can be greatly enhanced if members can embrace that which they most want to avoid.” (pg xi) So the question is not, “how do we stop groups from becoming dysfunctional?” but rather, “how can we use this as a learning experience and then best move forward with this newly acquired knowledge?” From what I can tell, the ability to hold paradoxical information within any type of group system or organization requires that we move away from linear thinking and into the realm of relational thinking. However, our ability to look at and understand the relationship between multi-variates is oftentimes influenced by our feelings, intuition and emotions. But of course we can’t ignore the role that they play and their ability to inform us! Nor can we leave out the effects our emotions have on our ability to perceive paradoxes in the first place. So the question becomes, how can we use emotions as “information”—and give them their proper role within the decision making process?

According to Brian Robertson, Holacracy’s integrative decision making process has an impersonal quality to it in that emotions are viewed as a form of support, but not as decision-making criteria in and of themselves. Similarly, Edward DeBono’s Six Hats Thinking Method was designed to help people “think about thinking” as well as better understand the processes that are used to help us form decisions. The Six Hats Thinking method is a popular tool in many organizations because it encourages full-spectrum thinking and it seeks to separate the ego from performance. For example, the White Hat covers facts, figures, information, the Yellow Hat covers logical positive thinking, and Red Hat covers intuitions, feelings and emotions. In essence, Red Hat thinking gives a thinker full permission to put forward his or her feelings on the subject at the moment— but individuals are called upon to engage the head and the heart in such a way that invites creativity, as well as caution—and ultimately some form of meta-cognition. Hence, all of these insights combined suggest to me that systemic thinking (as a cognitive capacity) enables individuals to hold paradoxes and ambiguity with less ego attachment and much greater awareness. More importantly, the capacity to engage in systemic thinking assumes that individuals have acquired the ability to incorporate not just one or two variables in information processing, but MULTI variables.

What strikes me the most as I write this is my realization that having an “integral perspective” means that any given problem has the potential to be looked at using a multi-variate approach AND that these variables can be gathered together (and organized) using Wilber’s AQAL framework! So I would imagine that when we consider what went wrong at Integral Institute, it seems to me that it would be helpful to go beyond the positions argued by Ken and Steve and consider what it was about the organization itself that led to this breakdown. Interestingly enough, the authors of the book, The Paradoxes of Group Life, use the crash of the Challenger as a way to demonstrate how researchers and consultants are moving beyond linear thinking and into a more relational approach to problem-solving. For example, they write: An early answer to what went wrong [in the Challenger disaster] was that “the O-ring failed.” The solution? “In the future use a stronger and better O-ring.” A decade later, the literature on this and similar disasters is concerned with the examination of the matrix of social, political, organizational, and technological relationships within which failure occurs. There is much greater propensity to see malfunctioning as an expression of systemic forces and less the fault of the part that gave out. The “faulty part” thinking has been giving way to an appreciation that the broken part is simply the location where the system ground to a halt.” (pg xxv) They then go on to say:  “…it is quite a significant movement when the question ceases to be, What is wrong with this worker? or What is wrong with this group? and becomes instead, What systemic forces have made it so hard for this person or this group’s competence to be expressed? This is a radical shift. It makes the question more multi-textured and puts the relational perspective center stage. The paradoxical is most helpful when we start thinking in these ways.” (pg xxvi)

As you probably gathered by now, I have the sense that Steve Frazee has been viewed as the “faulty O-ring” at I-I and, from what I can tell, the current thinking within this organization seems to be “we need to get a better O-ring.” Hence, it seems to me that our challenge right now is to view the recent events at Integral Institute as being systemic in nature and possibly representative as the struggles that take place in our individual psyches. To me, this is not a battle between good and bad, nor right and wrong but an opportunity for us to discover the paradoxical nature of group life and a way for us to engage the entire spectrum of knowing so that the collective shadow can be revealed, openly discussed, and ultimately perceived as arising in all four quadrants. In order to do this, all individuals involved need the courage to address the “undiscussables” that exist—as well as the proper support systems in place so that the moment that the group’s dysfunctions rise to the surface, an unbearable strain on the organization does not get created. It seems to me that this entire process will require a profound sense of grace, deep humility, and a level of integrity that is unlike anything we have witnessed before.

Bestowing much wisdom & courage upon us all,

Barbara Larisch,