Back in the ’70s, a few personal development models were being studied. One of them grew to become what we now know as the Integral Theory from Ken Wilber. His theory evolved over the years to include the many perspectives and studies that were being revealed over time. Wilber’s motto has been and still is, in terms of human development, to “include and transcend”, which he applied to his work.
Integral theory is Ken Wilber‘s attempt to place a wide diversity of theories and thinkers into one single framework. It is portrayed as a “theory of everything” (“the living Totality of matter, body, mind, soul, and spirit”), trying “to draw together an already existing number of separate paradigms into an interrelated network of approaches that are mutually enriching.”Wikipedia
I like to imagine Ken in his living room, late at night, trying to connect the dots between all the theories out there. He found ways to include all perspectives in one theory.
I don’t know the entire origin’s story, nor are aware of the full extent of its use or its intent. But one thing I can say is that it helped me consider many more perspectives and that is going to be the foundation on how I will bring the framework in the world of Scrum. First, I will introduce the theory and then we’ll apply it to the world of Scrum.
So here we go:
If we think of what matters from the human perspective, drawing from some of the greatest philosophers of all time, Wilber considered two pairs of opposite thoughts.
Individual vs Collective and Subjective vs Objective;
Mapping these on two axes creates four quadrants in which each one is holding a specific perspective.
“If you are interested in having this kind of reflection with other concepts, I invite you to read the Liberating Structure – Critical Uncertainties.”
The Upper Left (UL) is where we find the Individual / Subjective commonly known as the I quadrant. The focus is on individual experiences and consciousness. This means paying attention to self-awareness, feelings, and experiences.
The Upper Right (UR) is where we find the Individual / Objective, commonly known as the It quadrant. It is also referred to as the “Me” quadrant in some articles. The focus is on what can be measured; behaviors, body sensations, and actions.
The Lower Left (LL) is where we find the Collective / Subjective, commonly known as the We quadrant. The focus of this quadrant is looking at groups, cultures, relationships.
The Lower Right (LR) is where we find the Collective / Objective commonly known as the Its quadrant. What is important here are systems, structures, and nature.
Wilber explains that a person will orient from one primary quadrant, followed by a secondary quadrant. You may acquire skills and capabilities in all of the quadrants, but your main quadrant is going to influence how you perceive and experience the others.
Try It Yourself
To help you find your own primary quadrant, try to feel which one of the following affirmations hits home the most.
Individual Subjective (UL/I) You are having trouble following through with your commitments when there is no underlying meaning that feels inspiring to you. You will be scanning your emotions and having internal chatter about the why of things.
Individual Objective (UR/IT) You’ve got a good day when most of the items on your daily to-do list have been checked off. You are moving a lot, maybe even focusing on physical activities, monitoring your performance, comparing with benchmarks. Your motto may be: “you can’t improve what you don’t measure.” You feel good when things get done.
Collective Subjective(LL/WE) To feel strong in your decisions, you often check with your people. If you change the way things work, you are making sure everyone knows about the change. You have a good day when there is a shared understanding and a sense of belonging. Meetings don’t need to have actionable items as long as everyone talked and shared their perspectives.
Collective Objective(LR/ITS) You have a good day when the work environment is optimized. You believe that a better system yields better results. You are often looking at what is your place in the larger picture and love connecting dots between things. You may even be sensitive to where the sun rises in relation to your house.
It took me a little while to figure out my primary quadrant. I started to inspect UL and thought: “yes, in the past, I saw myself wonder what was the purpose behind things, and I was introspecting a lot about my feelings”, but I no longer seem to care that much anymore. I remember making a decision at a young age while playing with cars and helping a friend, that I wanted to be helpful to people. It seems this decision has been a bearing for me. Then I looked at the UL and thought: “Yes! I was training hard for years, monitoring my heartbeat, my weight, my performance. I was overly competitive and comparing my results with benchmarks all the time.” But the reality was that it wasn’t the case anymore. The competitive flame is not burning anymore. And then I looked over the LL and thought: “nope.”! I don’t check with others to make sense of a decision, I just make my own decisions. Furthermore, it doesn’t seem to be easy to see where I fit in a group. So then I got curious about how the LR had enacted over the course of my life. I didn’t think it was possible that I would be orienting LR as I didn’t particularly like routines and structures when I was trying to figure it out. (Turns out, I was wrong!)
I love nature, I love waking up with natural light (not that it makes a difference for me to actually get out of bed). It is natural for me to inspect and improve my work environment. What really made the cut for me was to realize all the structures I put in place to support my journey over the years. For example, when I prepared for my 6000 km walk in the woods, I built a website and started blogging so people could comment and send me good vibrations. It worked marvelously! Whenever I would have a tough week in the elements, I’d read comforting words from my followers. Hold that thought one minute. Does that mean I actually orient LL? Not quite, it is just a reminder that the four quadrants are always at play. Your primary quadrant will impact how you experience the rest.
It was quite liberating to have an explanation of how I see things, do things, and how I think things out. It was also frustrating because I would clearly see my limitations.
It took me a few months to figure out my secondary quadrant. It appears to be UL, the I quadrant. For the longest time, I thought it was UR because I am using an insane amount of to-do lists, I used to monitor my heartbeat, count my steps, etc… But I no longer find these metrics important. My LR created structures to stay in shape and be organized. To train hard, to monitor my performance, I needed a purpose. Otherwise, there is no motivation, there is inertia, I’m stalling. To have that burning flame inside of me, I need to have a calling.
You may have guessed already that each quadrant reveals its own capabilities. The ability to have a vision, getting things done, collaborate within a group or navigate structures. This is helpful because it gives you a foundation when trying to grow as an individual (or as a group!). Therefore pick your weakest quadrant and work on the capabilities of that quadrant.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when looking at the Integral Theory and personal development. Wilber continued evolving his Integral Theory by including many different other ideas laid down by other people. Remember, “Include and Transcend”.
Up to now, we introduced the Integral Theory applying it in ways that improve our look AT a human. You can pursue this study by shifting this to Looking As a human. Which would help you foster compassion and empathy for others as you will see and feel and act as they are. This is a powerful move to do in supporting them in their own development.
The following posts will be looking at how the quadrants can help us better see what needs to be developed when looking at our Scrum implementations.
Is this going to be helpful for you?