An introduction to applying the integral model in executive coaching and organizational development

By: Patrick Goonan

In general,  an unconditional attitude of friendliness toward yourself as a condition for deep transformation is indispensable. Also, it is important to have skillful needs to work with your past conditioning.  Skillful means can includes things like cognitive therapy, various types of practices such as yoga, meditation or techniques for dealing with your internal critic.  In this category, I would place things the Taming Your Gremlin book, which is a mainstay of the Co-Active Coaching model.

In the the introductory paragraphs, I’m speaking about targeting one particular area.  However, below I will talk about working on all levels of your being and across various life domains together in order to increase the probability of a personal transformation taking place.  By transformation, I mean a move up from one plateau of development to another.  This is a process where you transcend the old level, identify with the new and embrace the lower level by integrating it into a more comprehensive identity.

In other words, you have to transcend, then include the lower level as you move up.  However in order to do so, you will have to pass through a transitional period of discomfort. Because you have separated from a lower level, but not fully stablized an identification with the next level, you will experience some anxiety or fear.  More directly, you will feel some sort of threat to your identity.  This desert period provokes anxiety because it seems to threaten your survival.  At least this is how your brain often interprets a threat to your ego.  The mechanism is mediated by the limbic system or mammalian brain, which interprets your present internal state as an actual threat to your existence.

This general process of going up in steps is called a stage conception of development and you can talk about the upward path as a developmental line.  Some examples of developmental lines are cognitive, emotional, social and spiritual.  You can think of them as types of intelligence or different personal capacities.  However, the same idea would apply to groups such as the unfolding of civilizations from hunter gather through industrial capitalism and into the information age.

At this point in my discussion, I want to elaborate on a helpful map of reality that is particularly suited for personal growth.  This model is known as the Integral Model and was developed and popularized by Ken Wilber.  I believe it’s a an excellent map of the territory of deep change because it includes all the irreducible aspects of life inherent to the human condition.

The integral model looks at the interior of things (e.g. your own thought process, feeling life, etc.) and the exterior world (your body, observable events in the world, etc.).  It also considers interactions between individuals and objects, which is to say that it considers the collective nature of phenomenon and the emergent properties of  systems.

Emergent properties can’t be explained away in terms of simply looking at the parts that make up a whole.  Two good examples are life and intelligence.  You can’t explain life completely by just considering the large molecules that constitute a living organism.  Similarly, you can’t explain consciousness and intelligence in terms of the sum of physical structures that make up the brain or the electrical impulses occurring within it.  Some would argue that you can, but we don’t seem to be there yet.  In fact, it’s even difficult to understand what matter is from a quantum perspective.

In simpler terms, the Integral Model takes into consideration individuals and how they interact in collectives such as a group, organization or society.  The model also assumes that collectives have interiors as well as emergent properties.  For example, a society has shared values, beliefs and other qualities that can’t be observed via the sense or their extensions.  Also, a collective has  emergent qualities that can’t be explained in terms of the sum of the parts.  That is to say, you can’t understand the whole by merely looking at each of the parts.  The nature of water is not simply the sum of the properties of the two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom that constitute it.

It is easier to understand this model if you can see it visually.  Here is a simplified diagram that will help you grasp the points I have made so far.  Notice, the horizontal axis separates the individual dimension from the collective and the vertical axis separates the interior from the exterior.  If you take some time to study this diagram, it will make the rest of the article easier.


Again, one quadrant of this model can not be reduced or completely explained in terms of another.  That is to say that you can’t completely understand the nature of consciousness (Quadrant 1) by measuring physical correlations such as neurons firing in the brain (Quadrant 2).  You also can’t completely explain the dynamics of a society (Quadrant 3) by looking at the sum of observable behavior of the individuals that make it up (Quadrant 2).  That is to say, all phenomenon have  four irreducible aspects and many of the irreducible complexities in systems correspond to emergent properties.

Therefore, when we look at our own behavior, we must consider what is going on inside of us in terms of thoughts, feelings and other Q1 parts of ourselves.  At the same time, we need to deal with our outer behavior Q2 and also consider the systems we are embedded in such as our families, work environments and society.  These of course are all Q3 areas and then each of these external systems has it’s own value system, worldviews, etc. (Q4).  This is a fancy way of saying that everything is interconnected or interrelated.  In other words, to understand something you must look at the inside, the outside, the parts, the whole and how they all interact.

This model can be helpful with respect to personal development because it is largely  the systems we are embedded in and their interior aspects held as unexamined assumptions that keep us stuck.  In general, systems resist change and when an individual in a system tries to make a change, the interconnected nature of the whole system tends to pull the individual back to the status quo before any personal development work can have an impact.

However, by examining an issue against the four quadrant model, you get an awareness of the systems you participate in, how they effect you and your unconscious cultural assumptions.  This allows you to overcome the almost magnetic pull of the systems dynamics and cultural beliefs on your values, beliefs and behaviors.  With this increased awareness, you have increased freedom via the process of disidentification.  By disidentification, I mean the separation of your sense of self with your old level of development and prior to your identification with the next level.  You can think of the in between state as a dotted line relationship to both levels.  This is the desert area or where you will tend to feel anxious or scared.

If you think about it, conditioning is a cultural phenomenon.  It is a belief or value or system of beliefs and values programmed into you by a group.  This is another reason why it’s so difficult to make a permanent change.  There are many forces you are mostly unaware of acting to preserve the status quo.  For example, shame relates back to the norms of a group and guilt with a lack of alignment with your own internal value system which may or may not be highly conditioned.

Another dimension of the model is developmental lines which I discussed above.  Since this article is about personal growth, one of the Q1 lines such as cognition, morals or emotions is probably where you are looking to grow or seeking a change.  You can consider these various lines like spokes on a wheel originating from the center and moving outward.  Since we are considering a stage conception, each step will look like a rung in a ladder.  Moving up a stage is not like moving along a continuum, you are either alive or not, have self-reflective capacity or not.

Certainly, evolution follows this stepwise progression from fish, to reptiles to mammals.  Depending upon your personal beliefs, you can also consider a progression like matter, life, mind, soul and spirit as a stage progression.  Certainly, the worlds great wisdom traditions agree on this basic progression and you can consider these worldviews as part of the model if you want to.  Specifically, organized religion or worldviews belong in the fourth quadrant. In business, the companies shared vision and mission statement belong in this quadrant along with what we call company culture.

You can also see this type of progression in a collective such as a societal progression from hunter-gather to agrarian, agriculture to industrial, etc.  Interestingly, you will observe a correlative developmental line in each quadrant for each of these stages!  Therefore, in Q4 or the interior of the society, you will see belief systems corresponding to each stage a civilization goes through in Q3 i.e. magical beliefs will be found in hunter-gatherer societies and mythical beliefs in agrarian ones.  The quadrants are all related and we can use this knowledge to help us overcome the resistance of systems to changes by creating some reflective distance between ourselves and our shared beliefs.

Here are two diagrams, one simple and one more complex that will give you a deeper sense of how this all works together.  In the first one you can see various developmental lines in each quadrant without a label and understand each as having steps like a ladder.  If you keep reading, I’ll explain this further.

aqal_quadrants w lines

In this diagram, the yellow concentric circles represent levels, the green lines the various lines of development in each quadrant and you can see how each quadrant relates to but is not reducible to the other.  That is, each quadrant requires skillful means unique to this aspect of reality.  For example, a microscope (Q2-instrument) won’t help you to study love (Q1).  Studying social interactions (Q3) won’t help you to understand the underlying religion or worldview (Q4) that drives a lot of social behavior.

At this point, you probably have a good feel for the Integral Model.  However, it could get very complicated and while it’s good for self-development work, it also lends itself to extremely complex studies of organizations, living systems, etc.  If you think about it, it has the potential to integrate the arts, science and morals into a comprehensive unity and it has the same power for integrating the different aspects of a human life.

In fact, the Integral Model is probably the most comprehensive model that one can use to study and organization, its processes, culture, etc.  I consider this to be the leading edge of organizational development.  It also lends itself well to working with leaders of organizations, determining appropriate metrics and putting various types of feedback loops and other processes in place.  Therefore, I go just a lit deeper below before moving on to a simplification that can help you use the model’s principles in your own personal growth.

For your own edification and curiosity, here is a more complete four quadrant model diagram that fills in more detail.  You don’t need to learn it at this level, but having an appreciation of it will help you understand its potential integrating power at the individual level and for analyzing complex modern day problems.  Just look over this diagram and move on unless you have a deep interest in the theory or applying it in a more complex context like an organization.

Integral Model

The Integral Model – some specific applications such as personal growth and leadership

The most interesting thing about this diagram is the levels are represented by different colors and you can see some specific developmental lines and how a particular line in one quadrant corresponds to another line in an another quadrant.  I talked about this above, but here you can see specific examples in a visual context.  When working with organizations, we have often use this stage conception and even subdivide it further.

However, you may be asking yourself what does this have to do about be making a change in my life.  The answer is that by choosing growth practices for each quadrant and expressing them in each quadrant, you are more likely to have a transformation that is long lasting.  That is, if you work in this way you are more likely to stabilize the things you are working on into a permanent trait rather than a temporary altered state.  This integration also implies embodying your insights by expressing them deeply in each quadrant – self (Q1), culture (Q4) and nature (Q2 and Q3).  In other words, with this approach you get synergistic effects and integrate the new capacities into all the domains of life.  In this way, you get the systems working for you rather than against you.

On a practical level, this means picking one or several developmental lines to work with, choosing practices that help to develop those lines and finding ways to exercise the developing capacities in each of the four quadrants.  I realize there is a lot of new vocabulary and concepts here, so again a diagram might help.  This diagram is where the rubber meets the road in terms of applying and benefiting from the theory.


With this matrix, you can take advantage of the Integral Model without having to do a deep dive on all the theory because by your choices, you are working on different lines across quadrants and in all the domains of your life.  The specific instructions for using this matrix are in the diagram’s caption.  You simply pick one practice for each of the four core modules.  This gets you working in both your interior and your exterior dimesnions.  Then you add auxiliary practices which are collective by their nature and involve both interior and exterior dimensions too.  The point is that by working across all quadrants and on various lines, you are more likely to grow and stabilize that growth into permanent change.  This method of working also encourages and integration of your various capacities and intelligences.  As such, it is a holistic approach that touches you and your relationships in a very deep way.

The specific approach to transformation practice above is called an Integral Life Practice or ILP.  The model that comes from the diagram is a simplification of applying Integral Theory and is called the Integral Life Practices Matrix.  However, you can substitute your own practices, areas you wish to emphasize and specific means.  Technically, you can call these ILPs or whatever you wish.  The model is a useful guidelines, but when push comes to shove, you are the expert on how to apply the theory. The diagram above, however, is a very useful starting point for experimenting with this type of integrated approach.  What counts in the end is transformation or a permanent level change in one or more developmental lines.

While I didn’t go into it in depth, you can also apply the same kind of thinking to a business.  You may not want to simplify it as the matrix does above.  In fact, you will probably want to take it even deeper.  While I can’t explain all the details in one blog, the following diagram will give you an idea of some of the deeper nuances.


Another useful simplification, is to see how the model applies to a business leader working in an organization.  In the diagram below you can see the various dimensions and how these correlate to the more general diagrams above that introduced the model.


Here, you can see how the general interior, exterior, individual and collective aspects of leadership would be mapped.  By reflecting on this diagram, you will also understand how they correlate and relate to larger organizational goals, processes, shared values, etc.

I know this was a long article, but I hope you got a lot out of it and that you consider trying the approach I recommended in your personal life.

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences working this way and I invite back to leave a comment or subscribe.  If you would like further information on the Integral Model you can see some of my other postings, search YouTube or look for articles on the Internet.  If you are interested in applying this type of analysis in your business, please get in touch with me.

In my opinion, the integral model is a very important tool for understanding and working with differences across various disciplines and solving complex real world problems.  The Integral Institute is dedicated to applying the principles of this model in education, politics, business, psychology and other areas.  My experience is that it is a powerful and effective way to work on your own personal growth or a group in any domain of activity or interest.

If there are any critical aspects of this work I left unexplained or you have any questions, please let me know.  I will be writing more on integral theory, but if I have your input I can target my blogs to your interests more precisely.  If you would like to contact or work with me, you can find my contact information under the contact information menu heading on this blog.

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The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

I think this article is right on the mark for many of us.  We have available to us an unprecedented amount of freedom.  This often leads to indecisiveness and a deterioration of our efforts into a stance of being a wandering generality rather than a meaningful specific.  I am guilty of this myself, but having a broad view also has advantages.

For those renaissance people who have difficulty reducing things down to one primary focus, I would suggest limiting yourself to no more than three.  In my case, I like to work with organizations, one-on-one and to do writing.  These are complementary and they reinforce each other as well as offsetting the challenges inherent in each path.

If you are a renaissance type, there is a good book on career called the Renaissance Soul.  If you just can’t narrow your scope, consider reading this as a way to work with rather than against your natural way of being in the world.  This latter approach I would characterize as pursuing a portfolio career.

Please share your thoughts…..

Here is another poll to consider….


I hope you enjoyed this post and that it made you think about what type you are and how that relates to your career fulfillment.  If you have other comments or would like to subscribe to my blog, I would love to hear from you.

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Good Tips for Would Be Entrepreneurs

ADTRIBOO "Talent Online"

In tough times, you may need advice and guidance to help your business go down the right path.

That is why, last Friday, the Madrid International Lab hosted a presentation starring Rodolfo Carpintier in which they offered a number of tips for entrepreneurs to start their career or improve their situation.

Rodolfo Carpintier is a serial entrepreneur that has been involved in Internet over 27 years, well before the Web. He is now leading, the leading Spanish online Magazine for technology and Internet Business models.
His group, Digital Assets Deployment (Dad) is the first business incubator of Internet and 2.0 Technologies based projects in Spain, with a presence in Europe, USA, China and Latin America, supporting entrepreneurs to launch their business based on the Seed Capital concept. See


In total, there are 10 issues to consider:

  1. Analyze your business model with your friends. Use social networks and contacts for them…

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Networking Tips for Everyone

It’s a reality of today’s job market that you must network.  Simply sending out resumes and hoping for the best will not do it.  You have to build relationship capital and leverage it toward your goal of finding a job.  This article will help you get started.

Think of the other guy first – While you may be anxious to get back to work, increase sales or achieve some other goal, it is probably best if you reach out first with “what you can give” in mind.  In other words, sharing information, offering help and demonstrating that you are interested and care is the way to build a network.  People tend to reciprocate in kind, so the best  place for your start is with an attitude of helpfulness and encouragement.

Stay in touch – Don’t simply accumulate contacts and leave it at that.  Contact the most important people in your network regularly.  If you have a large network, consider having a schedule or system for checking in with people.  Take an interest in your contacts and they will take an interest in you.  It is also good to remember birthdays, anniversaries and reach out when someone is promoted or has other good news.

Share good information – While having a continuous presence among those in your network by sharing things of general interest out to all your contacts is wise.  It is even better is to subdivide your network into groups and target useful information more specifically.  An email to an individual that is personal and warm will also help you to deepen your connection.  I recommend sending a personal email or calling at least several times a year.

Ask for something specific – When you need a favor, ask for something specific.  In other words, don’t say something vague like can you help me.  Instead say, “Would you be willing to get my resume in front of the hiring manager by Friday.  “Would you contact three people on my behalf and get back to me by next Monday?”  These types of requests are much more likely to result in action on your behalf.  I would also have a schedule to follow up on these types of agreements.

Always say thank you – Often we are busy and sometimes take other peoples kindness for granted.  Don’t do this, be generous with thank you notes, appreciation and deserved praise.  If you can make it personal and specific even better.  A handwritten thank you note is better than email and a personal email much better than a note that is vague and general.

Another word for a market is a community –  If you want to enjoy good business relationships it is better for your future success to think of it this way.  Really, it comes back to the golden rule, do on to others as you would like them to do on to you.  If you keep that in the back of your mind, you will be the sort of person people will want in their networks and when you need a favor others will be willing to help you.

If you enjoyed this article or have other suggestions, please leave a comment or consider subscribing.  Commenting on a blog demonstrates expertise and it benefits others too.  Who knows, you may even make an important connection in the process!

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What are your feelings about looking for a job during a recession or down time?

I understand it’s a bad economy and many people are struggling.  However, during any economy there are lots of people who make money and manage to achieve their goals.  Even during the great depression there were people who adjusted to the environment and were successful in identifying opportunities.

During a recession in the mid-nineties, I had the good fortune of meeting Zig Ziglar who recently passed away.  As you probably know, he was a motivational speaker and perhaps one of the only people who got the best of 60 minutes in his interview with them.  In my case, I spoke to him one-on-one and he had some great advice that I would like to share.

At this time, I was quite discouraged and negative.  Mr. Ziglar suggested that the recession is actually something that largely exists between people’s ears.  He said, he is making lots of money and would I agree to not participate in this recession.  In other words, would I refuse to let my self be sucked into my own negative thinking and look for opportunities rather than reasons why I may not succeed.  To make a long story short, I succeeded in getting more interviews and landing a job quickly.  As he was fond of saying, it was my attitude that determined my ultimate attitude more than the macroeconomic climate.  Years later I agree.

I think a similar way of thinking could be applied to the current business climate.  While it is more difficult for many people and extremely difficult for some, there is still a lot of opportunity out there.  By being effective i.e. choosing the right battles, having a plan and enlisting an appropriate level of support, you can compete.  Being crystal clear on you want helps and having a written marketing plan is even better.  It’s also important to have measurable goals, such as calls made to contacts, resumes sent, thank you notes sent, etc.  You can’t manage what you don’t measure.

Also, during difficult times, the cream tends to rise to the top.  Often when there is an easier economic climate, it’s more difficult to differentiate ability levels of candidates.  Under difficult circumstances, the candidate pool spreads apart and the people with perseverance, commitment and clear goals stand out.  Make sure you are in this category and not a wandering generality in a sea of despair.

I would also recommend that you intentionally put together a strong support network.  In other words, pair up with an accountability buddy or coach who will hold your feet to the fire to live up to your words and commitments.  Also, consider joining or forming a group that support each other in the job search.

While the economic situation is not perfect, it is a perfect time for soul searching, doing things you’ve always wanted to do and didn’t have the time.  In other words, it’s a good time to think about your values, work/life balance and formulate other goals so that career isn’t your whole life.  If you’ve always wanted to write a book, play the guitar, spend more time with your kinds, do it know because circumstances can change quickly.

When we are in a difficult situation, the tendency is to thing in terms of a catastrophe.  It is helpful to deal with this by thinking of the worse case, the best case and the most likely case.  By doing this, you are constantly giving yourself a dose of reality.  Some people also find it helpful to schedule worry time after which they set the problems aside until tomorrow.

When times are tough, it’s important to use your time wisely.  That means doing the most effective things first rather than the most uncomfortable.  You will go further faster if you decide on what are the most effective means available and decide how you divide your time between them.  This is not the time for taking the past of least resistance.

In the end, you need ONE yes to be successful in your search.  How many no answers you hear is irrelevant.  In order to find gold, you need to move a lot of dirt.  However, once you have the gold, the dirt doesn’t matter.  Every rejection you get brings you closer to the ONE yes you need to get the job.  Don’t look at the dirt, look at the gold.

When I was very young, probably five or so years old my mom used to say this little poem:

Two men looked out from prison bars,

one looked up and saw stars,

the other mud.

It’s really up to you what you choose to focus on.  You can focus on the opportunities or the obstacles.  You can compare yourself up, for example to Bill Gates or you can reflect on the assets and opportunities that come along with your circumstances.  Chances are you are in the riches 5% of the world’s population!

I know this article is not an ultimate answer nor a magic bullet.  However, surrounding to despair and negative thinking won’t help you.  During hard times, you have to be your own cheerleader and lean on the people who love you.  Take a risk and reach out.  Also reach inside and get in touch with the passion that is in your heart.  This will help you make it through difficult times and succeed in spite of a difficult financial climate.  Be one of the people who consciously chooses to stack that deck in your favor.  If you do, you might be surprised at the results.

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What topics are you interested in seeing discussed on my blog?

Please pick one answer!  I appreciate your feedback and will try to modify my content according to your wishes.

Patrick Goonan

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100 Best Leadership Quotes

Great Leadership Quotes – 100 of the best

These quotes from Kevin Kruse recently published in Forbes are some of the best from a diverse people across history. You are sure to find some inspiration here.

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Eckhart Tolle speaks at Google

This is a nice interview talking about technology, peace of mind and the future.  This is a long interview, but it is certainly worth anyone’s time.  Topics such as mindfulness, emotional intelligence and cutting edge ideas for making the workplace more humane are also discussed.

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Higher Education offering diminishing value

Higher Education offering diminishing value

A good article from the Economist on the state of higher education.  Why can’t we get this right?  We used to be number one is this area and now we are somewhere at around 23.  If we abandon our young people by not making quality education a priority, then our future success as a nation is at risk.  This is a ROI area and we have the means to get it right.

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If you wish to succeed …

If you wish to succeed in life, make perseverance your bosom friend, experience your wise counselor, caution your elder brother, and hope your guardian genius.
Joseph Addison

It’s interesting how the most powerful things are often the most simple.  This is a longer quote on perseverance itself that is probably my favorite:

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race” ~ Calvin Coolidge (30th President of the US, 1923-1929)

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