Our Evolution Towards Principles Thinking

Adults face challenging journies throughout their personal, social and professional lives, with the modern World throwing up more possibilites but also more complexity. 

In looking at how adults can best rise to these challenges whilst maintaining balance and health, there is an important distinction to be made between behavioural health (referred to here as "horizontal health" influenced significantly around a person's personality) and vertical development.

The field of "horizontal health" in personal and management development is very mature, with a wealth of tools and services on the market (from MBTI personality tests to Hogan personal inventories to the Enneagram archetypes etc.). 

These tools provide extremely useful guidance for each individual to be aware of their traits and shadows, and there can be direct improvements as to how each person can optimally align themselves in terms of their roles, responsibilites and relationships at work.

However, ultimately, it can be said that performance at work depends on a person's capabilites and intelligence such as "g" (as referred to by business psychologists, for example Adrian Furnham in "Personality and Intelligence at Work: Exploring and Explaining Individual Differences at Work"). Such a notion of intelligence however is associated with a fixed capability that is innate in any individual, and which does not necessarily change beyond early adulthood. 

To drill down to one element such as intelligence belies the fact that individuals confront a wide range of personal, inter-personal. moral reasoning and meaning-making challenges in their working lives. There are very successful entrepreneurs for example who have do not necessarily demonstrate correspondingly exceptional levels of "g" intelligence.

Because of such observations, contemporary appreciation of "whole person" approaches supported by the horizontal health tools over the past 50 years have been so successful. Research into multiple and emotional intelligences has gained a huge following without being backed by robust statistical metrics (not to say that these are not valid fields) .

But in throwing out the notion of any vertical performance comparisons, the horizontal health proponents have thrown out a crucial aspect of how adults do indeed progress along a vertical scale of cognitive maturity, and that their progress can be nurtured and supported. 

This adult jouirney of vertical progression has been researched over the past 100 years, with pionners such as Baldwin, Graves, Piaget, Cook-Greuter, Torbert and Kegan.

There are later stages of development with very distinct attributes, for example where managers display self-contradictory styles. It has been shown that managers with such seemingly ambiguous traits in fact have been consistently scored by peers, subordinates and superiors as the most effective managers, as they shape-shift in a timely manner to each organisational challenge and context (ref. Competing Values Framework, Cameron and Quinn, 1999, p. 42)

Skill Shift Coaching is a virtuous learning process based on the field of adult developmental psychology, that supports executives in their self-authoring progression along a journey of increasing scope in their:
  • navigating complexity
  • perspective taking, choosing and seeking
  • crtical and moral reasoning, and
  • self-awareness

Learning and development 

The non profit learning and development tools organisation Lectica based near Boston, is one of the most interesting that I have come across over the years in this space - with a very distinct positioning in comparison to the personality type testing providers. 

Below are a few references to their approach. 

The following capacties are both measured (summative testing*) and developed (formative / embedded testing) through the Lectica testing products:
  • Perspective Taking
  • Perpsective Seeking
  • Perspective Coordination
  • Contextual Thinking
  • Deceision Making
  • Collaborative Capacity
*Lectica exceeds industry standards for statistical reliability and repeatability

The Lectica tools are based on a theory of complexity of thinking, with unfolding levels of understanding and abstraction.

The graphics below illustrate the progression through these stages with management levels, from the research at Lectica.org:

Here is a video lecture (40 min) by Lectica on the learning process through virtual circles of seeking knowledge, application, analysis, and goal setting. 

Examples of learning application and analysis processes are numerous, of which the following are examples :
  • Action Inquiry (Torbert) 
  • Problem based learning (Barrows)
  • Collaborative learning (Findley) 
  • Double loop learning (Argyris)
  • Experiential learning cycle (Kolb)
  • Dialogical action (Freiere) 
  • Bloom's Taxonomy 

Comparing Developmental Models

  • Bill Torbert's 2014 paper comparing the Torbert/Herdman-Barker Global Leadership Profile (GLP), the Harthill  Leadership Development Profile (LDP), the Cook-Greuter Mature Adult Profile (MAP), the Kegan Subject-Object Interview (SOI), and the Loevinger Washington University Sentence Completion Test (WUSCT)

Developmental Curriculum References (form Matthew Kalman)


One "Research Question" figuring in my research is:
How Is Individual Development Mediated By Organisation Structures and Cultures?