Member Post: How to Unlock your Integral Futures Mindset

The following is a member post written by Tanja Schindler and originally posted on her LinkedIn Articles. She discusses her views on Ken Wilber’s Integral Approach and its relevance for strategic foresight. Be sure to click through to her original post to further the discussion. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of the APF or its members.

It’s been a while since my last article, but some of you may have noticed that we ran The Futures School Europe in Berlin – a 3day workshop program introducing methods and tools of futures thinking and Strategic Foresight. It has been a great success, especially, due to our fantastic crowd of participants and we are excited to do more workshops in 2018.

The workshop also strengthened my view on promoting a holistic approach to Foresight, especially in Europe, a very technology driven area. If you remember, in my last article I’ve already talked about how our worldviews and underlying metaphors shape our futures thinking. To expand this thinking to an unknown area, we need to analyze those worldviews and replace them at least partial to be open for something new.

Last time, I’ve also introduced CLA, the Foresight method by Sohail Inayatullah to analyze those worldviews. Today, we will focus on another framework that supports diverse thinking and steps aside from the general Foresight approach to discover our environment in a new way by using Foresight also to discover ourselves.

A New Framework of Environmental Scanning

The Integral Futures concept describes an approach where we not only uncover the system = external world we live and its social, technological, environmental, and political drivers of change but we also analyze our behavior and underlying mental models.

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” – Mark Twain

Once we are too confident about what we think or how the future will develop we start to see only those signals that support our own beliefs while neglecting information that would prove us wrong. Therefore, foresight and especially the approach of Integral Futures enables organizations and individuals to understand our interior, exterior, individual and collective world preparing us for the uncertainty of the future. Richard Slaughter published an article about Integral Futures as a ‘New Approach for Environmental Scanning’ already in 1999 if you want to dive deeper into the topic.

In this article, I will focus on Ken Wilber’s basic framework of the four quadrants. Even with this approach, uncertainty won’t vanish completely but we can learn to manage it through exploring diverse pathways of the future. However, before we start exploring the future, we need to analyze how we currently think so we can start thinking differently.

Wilber’s Four Quadrants

Ken Wilber developed a meta-framework highlighting that besides the empirical analysis of our environment there is a deeper level of unlocking our futures thinking. This integral model describes people in a holistic context – both as individuals and within a collective. Wilber, therefore, analyzed how hundreds of researchers study their environment and discovered a pattern illustrated by his four-quadrant model:

The four quadrants are:

  1. Upper-left: Intentional and represented by the ‘I’. This quadrant reflects our feelings, hopes, dreams, and intentions. It is what we think, believe and where our values are rooted.
  2.  Upper-right: Behavioral and represented by the ‘IT’. This quadrant describes our individual behavior, how we act and react due to our education, cultural background or intelligence.
  3. Lower-left: Cultural and represented by the ‘WE’. This quadrant describes our culture, myths and social world. The stories and traditions we know because we grew up in this world.
  4.  Lower-right: Social (system) and represented by the ‘ITS’. This quadrant describes the system we live in and it is also where the well-known STEEP-Analysis is taking place.

Integral Futures, hence, offers a holistic approach where we first discover our own value and belief system and then identify and become aware of the consequences caused by our actions. Then, we analyze where our mental models are rooted – our myths, traditions, and bedtimes stories. Finally, we get to the exercise most Strategic Foresight Analysts jump to straight away – the environmental scanning of our external systems through frameworks such as STEEP or PESTEL (Social, Technological, Environmental, and Political drivers and factors).

In my last two blog posts, we discovered the interior world with quadrant Q1 and Q3. Therefore, the next two blog posts will focus on our exterior world, beginning with Q2. We will save everybody’s favorite quadrant Q4 for last – where I will introduce the advantages of digitalizing Foresight and exploring the STEEP factors in a new and fun way as a team and online.

Start following us for more details on how to become aware of the consequences caused by our actions in my next blog post.

Read also my previous posts:

Discover the futurist in you! – Tanja & Your 4strat team

Further Readings: