Our evolutionary challenge
According to Bill Joiner only about 10% of the people (at the so-called ‘Catalyst level’ and above) are agile enough to deal with the evolutionary challenge we’re collectively facing. To be clear, that doesn’t mean the other 90% is incapable of leading their businesses, fixing bikes or raising children. However, to truly be able to deal adequately with the complexity we face, you need a developmental or agility level (i.e. inner operating system) that goes beyond the conventional level of our times.
The missing link is stage development
Ken Wilber speaks about society facing a ’war of memes’. Our internal operating systems, or levels of development, are not always in harmonious agreement. This can either occur between people, or within people. As Bill Joiner mentioned, adult development is the missing link for many of the big questions we’re currently struggling with in business and society.
Developing individuals is not the (quick) solution
If we assume that only 10% of the people can deal adequately with our current challenges, then what can we do? The easiest answer would be to help people develop so that they will be able to deal with the complexity, but there are some constraints.
- Development can only happen when an individual is intrinsically motivated. You can bring a horse to the water, but you cannot make it drink. So, we can only work with a developmental coalition of the willing.
- Many sources write that development takes about 5 years a level. You can’t make the grass grow harder by pulling on it.
So, even though developing individuals is the long-term solution, our coalition of the willing will need to explore other options. Here are two I’d like to suggest.
Optimally leveraging developmental capital
Right now, our institutions, ranging from business to politics to healthcare to education, are not aware of adult development. This severely limits their ability to select effective leaders. Wouldn’t it be great to transparently get test results from our ambitious politicians, before we have to vote? With their developmental level as an integral part of any assessment. There is no reason why business couldn’t include adult development levels in their leadership selection, assessment, and allocation processes. Quick wins, baby!
Exploring Conscious systems
Conscious systems and structures allow an organisation to operate as a system above the developmental level of many of its individuals. We don’t all need to know how a telephone works in order to use it. Unfortunately, the same is true for guns. However, I believe it is safe to assume new conscious inventions will serve individuals better in their needs to pursue purpose, passion and effectiveness. I also doubt the R&D team of an organisation will come up with a Kalashnikov 3.0. when you ask them to improve organisational effectiveness. (Check our call with Brian Robertson about Holacracy, which I believe is such a conscious system – you’ll find it in the downloads section)
The organisations investing in adult development, leveraging their developmental capital, and building ‘conscious structures’, will gain a great competitive advantage. But the best part is, that at the same time, they will be providing a great service to the developmental coalition of the willing. So that we can kick back, relax and enjoy a beer.