Late last year I remembered that I was a member of the Shaping Tomorrow Ning group – the largest collection of futures orientated thinkers and actors in the world – and was responsible for the Integral Foresight group… very little activity I’m afraid to report. So, in a very unsuccessful effort to prompt some discussion I wrote the following post. Thought that since most of my posts on this site are automated, a little original content wouldn’t go astray;)
I was prompted by Richard Slaughter to remember that I have some responsibility for this group, being the one to start it… I’m sure many of you would have if I hadn’t;) That said, I note the lack of discussion and thought I’d throw a hat in the ring and see if anyone bites…
Reporting from the front lines…. Any recent stories about Integral Futures?
* Sore lack of
* Natural emergence of
* Personal journeys…
For myself, I was visiting with Saniel Bonder, founder of Waking Down in Mutuality (and teacher at the Integral Spiritual Experience series), last month when he read out a great quote that emergently clarified where I am at with ‘Integral Futures,’ or more precisely Ken Wilber’s brand of integral theory. It is by Robert Godwin PhD, in his book “One Cosmos Under God:”
His [Ken Wilber’s] work is a tremendous influence on my earlier intellectual development, and to a large extent one leaves his imposing corpus asking the question, “What’s left to say?” In order to have any thoughts of my own, I had to make him sort of an “unfluence,” even though no human who deserves the name should be unfamiliar with his work. [emphasis added]
I love that, “unfluence.” I bought the book! Upon reflection it seems to me that one of the troubles and blessings with all expansive systems of thought is that they stretch the mind in ways that can’t be undone. I have found, however, that they can be emptied to a degree… leaving an expansive open space of mind, or perhaps Mind for the Buddhists amongst us, and an increasing mental fitness to openly engage with life’s complexity on its own terms.
I think the gradual coming into this position in my case, over several years, is what has lead me to use any integral theory increasingly sparingly in my futures consulting. I’ve gradually discovered that having this background as a foundation in mind/psyche has allowed me to recognise and creatively synthesise many tools, discourses, methods etc in praxis that are far more familiar to the other agents in the context. (Don’t get me wrong, part of me would love to be able to openly use integral theories; the clarity, efficiency, easily accessible insights they bring… o!,sigh.) Yet, drawing appreciatively from their cherished, or at least familiar, toolboxes has generated several valuable outcomes:
- Internal stakeholders get drawn to the table faster and with a greater sense of being appreciated/valued – and a lot of good participation characteristics flow from this.
- External stakeholders get to see tat familiar, read credible/reliable/proven, approaches are being used and are less likely to nit-pick or otherwise create tensions.
- The overall approach (process/method) feels familiar, and thus safe, and so participants can orientate themselves, relax into it and thus greater quality contributions are elicited.
- Many people involved or observing are usually quite amazed at the different outcomes, the depth of insights, the diversity of content that emerges… ‘how did the ‘same old same old’ suddenly produce something so different?’ could sum up some common refrains (which usually reflects well on the consultant, which doesn’t hurt commercially to say the least;)
- Personally, a joyful creativity in practice has accompanied this approach – being a futures consultant keeps on becoming more fun! (I didn’t realise it, but due to my surprise at this, I obviously had an assumption that said otherwise;)
Funnily enough, the last major project I worked on (over a year long full time with a team of 5 consultants) involved the re-visioning of a sector of a State Government’s operations, resulting in numerous diagnostic, consultative and exploitative type reports and presentations, and ultimately a new ‘strategic policy’ with a ten year time-horizon and detailed 5 year transformation program involving three departments and 10 organisations directly/heavily. I used the implicit/empty integral stance to design the project’s approach and report structures, and also found that there was little room to explicitly utilise ‘futures’ methods/theory and so it to had to be covert/implicit as well. As the only futurist in the consultation and stakeholder groups, rather than parading my integral foresight stripes, hiding them became the only pragmatic option… and lead to a very successful outcome. Big lessons in that experience for myself, at the very least: unlearning the most powerful thinking systems I’ve ever come across is a strangely disconcerting yet liberating passage, and my work is all the better for it – more integral, deeper foresight. Go figure?
Enough from me on Reporting from the front lines… with curiosity, appreciation and anticipation, I invite you to come forward and share some of your recent stories…I look forward to learning from them and enjoying them!;)