Integral Quadrants is a tool or framework that represents four of the most fundamental perspectives on reality at any point in time. The quadrants can be imagined as four lenses, each a very different but simultaneous view.
The power in using these lenses is that it ensures you have considered all factors affecting your thinking and action. The lenses increase your awareness of the choices, options and dynamics in almost any situation. They are equally relevant to the entrepreneur, social activist, or for designing a new hospital!
This figure summarises the sets of factors that you consider from each lens. The quadrants are formed by two axes – one representing the ‘internal’ (subjective) and ‘external’ (objective) dimensions, the other the ‘individual’ and ‘collective’ dimensions. This is nothing too complex, just a pictoral representation of the structures that already underly our language: I, we, it, and its!
Each of these lenses, or perspectives, can be experienced in the moment.
The questions below may guide you in this right now, and are worded to try and be generic enough for most applications.
Individual mindsets, intentions and experiences – ‘I’
- How do you feel (emotionally)?
- What sounds do you hear?
- What can you smell?
- What do you value above all else?
- What are three things you are completely committed to?
Individual behaviours, actions, and observable characteristics – ‘It’
- What are you doing, physically?
- What clothes are you wearing?
- What is distinctive about your appearance?
- What skills do you have?
- What habits would others observe you to have?
- When and where do you feel physically strong and well?
Collective values, norms, vision – ‘We’
- Which relationships are most important to you?
- What’s normal that may not be so in other organisations, communities or contexts?
- Who are the heroes in your organisation, or community?
- What words describe the culture in your organisation or community?
- What are the significant places where people congregate?
- How do people communicate – visually, verbally, in writing, through touch?
- Are there significant events in history that are important?
Collective actions, structures, systems and institutions – ‘Its’
- Imagine you are in a helicopter, and looking over the landscape and environment, what features stand out?
- How would you describe the style of architecture/layout of your organisation or community?
- What seasons, plants, water, soil and animals characterise this area?
- Which major trends are affecting your organisation and community?
- What are the institutions and stakeholders that your organisation or community interacts with?
- What new technology is really imporant in this context?
- Who sets the rules, regulations and boundaries in your organisation or community?
We can use the ‘building a hospital’ example to illustrate:
- From the ‘I’ perspective you might imagine what it would feel like, smell like, look like if you were a sick patient having to spend months in the new building.
- From the ‘We’ perspective, you might imagine what the norms of behaviour are, the power relationships, the joint sense of purpose that are created by the people working in the new facility.
- From the ‘It’ perspective, you might consider what the doctors, nurses, chefs, cleaners have to actually do in this space, what skills they have, equipment they use, and their individual movements through a normal working day.
- From the ‘Its’ perspective, you might consider the placement of the hospital in the landscape, its orientation to the sun, its relationship to other buildings, transport routes and how big it is.
People, their perspectives, and where they put the attention are at the core of most challenges. These lenses take this fact seriously, and seek to make more explicit the dynamics of how we perceive things, before we even get into the detail of exactly what we see.
There are many more ways that you be explicit about the perspective you are taking at any given moment, and Wilber and others have explored this deeply. You can learn more about some other distinctions and perspectives that are part of the ‘AQAL’ or ‘Integral Operating System’ in other posts on: Levels, Types, Lines, States…. [link to be created]
If you want to learn more about this tool, case studies of its application, when it is most appropriate to use, then get in touch. We have run introductory, and advanced workshops on this, and used it in a variety of contexts.
You can also learn more yourself. The easiest introduction to Integral is this new book:
or this slightly older and more comprehensive one (though there are even more comprehensive ones than this!):
Two papers on application to sustainability and social challenges can be downloaded from here (i.e. Integral Sustainability 101, and ‘Theory and Practice..’)