Posts Tagged ‘transpersonal psychology’

Personal Intangible Assets and Intentions

August 14, 2009

Among KM practitioners, the word “knowledge” has a very specific meaning, namely, “capacity for effective action” (see previous blog posts “F5- A Proposed KM Framework” and “Practical Exercise #15: Ingredients of Effective Group Action”).

I wrote a paper entitled “Organisational energy and other meta-learning from case studies of knowledge management implementation in nine Asian countries”. It will be published soon by Routlege in the next issue of the Knowledge Management for Development Journal. In this paper, I reviewed 22 KM case studies from Asian countries and 21 KM case studies from the Philippines, and I concluded that effective action is the result of two factors: knowledge assets and “organizational energy“. I defined the latter term as motivational, intentional, relational and related factors that determine effective group action. A knowledge worker must “know” how to do a job well, AND he/she must be “willing or wanting” to do it. See blog post: “Q23- Know-how (=Knowledge) without “Willing-to.” Organizational energy is a part of an organization’s capacity to create value. Organizational energy is part of its intangible assets.

KM practitioners know that KM to be successful must be accompanied by one form or another of “change management” (click “Change Management Must Accompany KM” in the CCLFI opening page). If you examine the repertoire of a change management expert, you will conclude that all change management interventions aim to enhance organizational energy — it seeks, enhances, encourages, builds upon or enables “willingness” of employees to perform the desired actions. (see: “A Success Factor in KM: Motivating Knowledge Workers”)

Therefore, to optimize person-to-person communication for either creation or transfer of knowledge, organizational energy must be managed, including paying attention to the intention behind our communication acts.

Let me share an insight about personal intangible assets.

I blogged about people who had experienced looking at death face-to-face, and surviving from that experience. The experience leaves them with a heightened appreciation of life. They listen to, engage with, and live life more fully. The experience also results in a valuable learning, namely, that when your time is up, we leave behind many things that we thought we “own”. Think about this: when you or I cross the threshold to death, we leave behind:

  • Our tangible assets: properties like house and land, financial wealth, explicit knowledge, equipment and technologies (you can’t bring your laptop with you!);
  • Our physical body and its physical or biological life;
  • Our academic, professional and social credentials and positions.

I had assumed that religious beliefs cannot be scientifically scrutinized. I realized I could be wrong after I read books such as Dr. Raymond Moody’s popular book “Life After Life”. Since that time, much research in transpersonal psychology had grown. This subfield is not yet recognized by the American Psychological Association, but a couple of universities had started to offer doctoral programs in transpersonal psychology.

Thanks to this new field of research, we are beginning to see new insights about life and learning.

Dr. Moody is a physician in Pennsylvania who noted that patients who unexplainably regained consciousness hours after having been pronounced clinically dead (“spontaneous revival”) almost always have a story to tell about their “in-between” experience. The fact that some people can regain full consciousness and bodily functions hours after the brain had been deprived of oxygen is itself a medical mystery. But Dr. Moody’s interest was elsewhere: in those stories. The stories seem to exhibit similarities. Listening to the stories, it appears that the “in-between” experiences were often life-transforming for those patients. His interest grew and he sought and collected more stories from other hospitals. Eventually he published the case studies in book form in 1978.

The similarities he observed across many stories were as follows. Patients recall:

  • Passing through and eventually emerging from a dark tunnel to a place of light;
  • Meeting or being met by relatives and friends who had died before;
  • Reviewing their life in a split second — as if watching a super fast movie;
  • Having someone beside them during the life review, whose demeanour is kind and non-judgmental (the identity of this “someone” varies according to the religious belief of the patient);
  • This “someone” asks basically two questions during the life review: Q1: What have you learned? Q2: Whom have you helped or loved?;
  • Then the patient “returns” back to life.

Dr. Moody was intrigued by the similarities because the patients who told their stories were unknown to one another (and therefore they could not have secretly conspired to tell similar stories). In fact many patients regard their experience with so much significance and respect that some hesitate at first to reveal their experiences.

Did you notice that Q1 is about (using KM language) gain in human capital while Q2 is about gain in relationship capital? The indications from Dr. Moody’s studies are: we do leave behind all our tangible assets; these are NOT ours, at least not in any permanent way. But our intangible assets do stay with us! They are really OUR assets.

Findings from transpersonal psychology, and knowledge accumulated by those who practice what we can call experiential technologies (e.g. Tibetan Buddhism; see my previous blog post “A Paradox of 20th Century Scientific Practice”), indicate that we can bring with us:

  • Our intangible assets: tacit knowledge, lessons learned, relationships;
  • Our capability to be consciously aware and to make decisions, choices or intentions.

The book I am reading now is Stephen Levine’s “A Year to Live: How to Live This Year As If It Were Your Last.” I am happy to learn that many of the skills and tools in conscious living (and in “Indigo Learning Practices” in this blog series) we have been practicing and developing at CCLFI, are useful not only for personal KM and organizational learning, but also for fearlessly and smoothly crossing the threshold to death.

We saw in previous blog posts that intangible assets are more important than tangible assets in: (a) GWP and the global economy, (b) in corporations, and (c) in development of poor communities. And now we see that intangible assets are also fundamentally important at the personal level.



“It is said that for money you can have everything, but you cannot. You can buy food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health; knowledge, but not wisdom; glitter, but not beauty; fun, but not joy; acquaintances, but not friends; servants, but not faithfulness; leisure, but not peace. You can [buy] the husk of everything, but not the kernel.” – Arne Garborg, Norwegian writer and reformist

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Listening Where Mental Models of People Conflict

August 3, 2009

Two people with conflicting or incompatible mental models will likely:

  • See different slices of the real world (read blog post “Q7- We Found the Enemy: Our Own Concepts!”);
  • May be looking at the same thing but will interpret what they see differently;
  • Use different language, or use the same words but with different meanings; and
  • Will not be aware of all the above and will not know why they are unable to communicate productively (unless they practice internal listening and the rest of the discipline of “Mental Models” in Learning Organizations).

If they harbour mental models of each other that the other does not agree with (“On Michael Jackson, or Our Mental Models of People We Know”) then listening stops and the erosion of goodwill starts; further communication is unworkable.

What are the options in such a case?

  1. Option 1: Stop communication. To preserve goodwill, an agreement to acknowledge the fact that they have basic differences and to respect each other’s mental models instead of –
  2. Option 2: Use force so that the mental model of the more powerful will prevail or
  3. Option 3: Agree to obey the authority and judgment of a third party or
  4. Option 4: Use universally-accepted protocols for validating, eliminating or selecting mental models.

Unfortunately, protocols for Option 4 are not yet fully developed. The scientific method is a rather well-developed and tested set of protocols for validating mental models, but applied only to empirical validation or only on “what is” and “what works” (in figure below, only right side of Ken Wilber’s quadrants). Knowledge management is engaged in seeking, innovating, developing and re-using “what works”. Sustainable development criteria falls on the lower right quadrant.

Parallel protocols for validation and selection of mental models for the left side of Ken Wilber’s quadrants (see figure below) are not yet fully developed. Protocols for application to validation of experiential data (upper left quadrant) are still being developed in the discipines of transpersonal and paranormal psychology and in phenomenological research. There is no consensus on how “individual benefit” (upper left quadrant) is to be defined and assessed. What does it consist of? Money? Social opportunities? Learning and realizing human potential? Security? Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a step in clarifying this area. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the slew of accessory protocols on other aspects and varieties of human rights is a notable contribution on the lower left quadrant. Surprisingly, the Rotary Club’s “Four-Way Test” fits very well with Ken Wilber’s framework and provides commonly-understandable or laymen criteria for the four quadrants:

Rotary 4-way test

I have written about Ken Wilber’s framework and applied it in many ways in past blogs:


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A Paradox of 20th Century Scientific Practice

May 23, 2009

Science as practiced in the 19th and 20th centuries lies in Quadrant 3: it is biased towards observing and studying the outer world of forms and phenomena. With few exceptions, the inner world of consciousness is either ignored, denied or regarded as not real or less real, or reduced to its empirical, behavioral or operational counterparts. Listen to these authors:

    “Values, life meanings, purposes, and qualities slip through science like sea slips through the nets of fishermen. Yet man swims in this sea, so he cannot exclude it from his purview.”

    – Huston Smith

    The “modern Western character complex is connected with a peculiar perception of all things – including psychic and mental things – as ultimately reducible to quantifiable material entities. This is what gives it its ‘outwardness’.”

    – Robert Thurman

    Science views as real “any objectifiable entity or process that could be described in valueless, empirical, monological, process it-language.” According to this “flatland” view of the cosmos, “none of the interior dimensions and modes of knowing has any substantial reality at all… The mistake of modern science is that “all interior dimensions (of I and WE) were reduced to exterior surfaces (of objective ITs)… Modern science “aggressively invaded the other value spheres – including interior consciousness, psyche, soul, spirit, value, morals, ethics and art… pronouncing on what was, and what was not, real.”

    – Ken Wilber

The foundation of scientific knowledge is the scientific method of establishing objectivity and empirical validity. Listen to these quotations, particularly the eminent Austrian expert in the philosophy of science Karl Popper:

    Objectivity is based on “eliciting intersubjective agreement.”

    – Huston Smith

    “Ultimate truth, if there be such a thing, demands the concert of many voices.”

    – Carl Jung

    “…the objectivity of scientific statements lies in the fact that they can be inter-subjectively tested.”

    — Karl Popper

Current scientific practice is objective and outward in orientation, yet the very foundation of scientific validity is inter-subjective corroboration. Scientists in the 19th and 20th centuries prefer to define reality in terms of Quadrant 3, yet the fundamental basis of their method of validation is inter-subjective processes in Quadrant 4. Objectivity depends on inter-subjective invariance. Intersubjectivity is at the foundation of objectivity!

This paradoxical blind spot in modern science will fade away if science evolves to also embrace Quadrant 4 or what I call “indigo practices”. The indicators that this may have started to happen are:

  • The growth of humanistic and transpersonal psychology;
  • The emergence of experiential-phenomenological methods of anthropology (e.g. the early works of Carlos Castaneda);
  • Interest in paranormal studies;
  • Emergence of organizational learning and specifically the practice of team learning and dialogue;
  • The emergence of management of knowledge and other intangible assets;
  • The convergence between modern science and religion exemplified by the Mind and Life Institute mentioned in a previous blog.

These events are all part of global Megatrend #1: towards Yin. An interesting convergence that is worth watching is that between transpersonal psychology (Quadrant 3 science moving towards Quadrant 4) and Tibetan Buddhism (the only major religion that straddles Quadrants 1 and 4).

If mainstream scientific practice has been outward-looking, then its inward-looking mirror-image is Tibetan Buddhism. While modern science has developed empiricism (which is consensual corroboration using outward-looking data) for over 3 centuries to its present height, Tibetan Buddhism is unique in having developed the practice of consensual corroboration using inward-looking or experiential data gathered by thousands of monk-practitioners (lamas) for over 12 centuries. Quoting Thurman again:

    “In Western culture, the last frontiers of our material conquest of the universe are in outer space. Our astronauts are our ultimate heroes and heroines. Tibetans, however, are more concerned about the spiritual conquest of the inner universe, whose frontiers are in the realms of death, the between, and contemplative ecstasies. So, the Tibetan lamas who can consciously pass through the dissolution process, whose minds can detach from the gross physical body and use a magical body to travel to other universes, these ‘psychonauts’ are the Tibetans’ ultimate heroes and heroines.”

experiencing outer vs inner universe

The above critique of prevailing scientific practice is part of a paper I wrote in 2004 entitled “Patotoo: an Indigenous Concept of Validity and Some Implications” which was published in 2005 by the Institute of Spirituality in Asia as part of the book “Hiyang: Papers of the Colloquium on Research Methodologies in the Study of Spiritualities in the Philippines.” If you want to receive a copy of this paper, please email me (

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Q15- Senge’s Journey: from Learning to Presencing?

February 19, 2009

After two of CCLFI clients in the Philippines decided to become “living, learning organizations,” I was pleasantly amazed at how far the influence of Peter Senge’s concept of “learning organization” (LO) has reached. Today, I stumbled upon a 2001 OECD study on “Cities and Regions in the New Learning Economy.” Wow!

The concept of LO did not solely originate from Senge. It was a concept that has been talked about before 1990 by other experts such as Chris Argyris, Donald Schon and David Bohm. 1990 was the year when Senge’s bestseller book came out: “The Fifth Discipline: the Art and Practice of the Learning Organization.” Senge also borrowed ideas from Forrester, Meadows and their colleagues at the systems dynamics group in MIT of earlier “Limits to Growth” fame.

The concept itself is a pregnant one, for it leads to new ways of looking at organizations: that organizations are like living entities. Organizations learn and adapt. They evolve and mutate. They are not like machines that need mechanics, fixers and top-down Taylorist managers; they are more like plants that need nurturing gardeners.

Not all experts agree. For one, David Garvin decries those who see “learning… as a New Age phenomenon, whose goal is releasing human potential rather than improving the bottom line… [whose] discussions of learning organizations have often been reverential and utopian” (see his book “Learning in Action”).

I agree with Garvin that the five LO disciplines are remote from the bottom line. His definition of a LO is more business oriented and practical, which fits well in the context of the Harvard Business School where he teaches. However, I think business is not the only area of application of LO concepts.

Lest “learning organization” remains a “Cloud 9 concept,” Senge and his colleagues came up with concrete tools four years later (see “The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization,” 1994).

Despite the criticisms, I think the fundamental basis of LO is solid. Garvin looks at managing behavior and performance (external view) while Senge looks at the mental models that determine behavior (internal view). In the words of Senge, “the central message of The Fifth Discipline is… that our organizations work the way they work, ultimately, because of how we think and how we interact.” The two views actually complement each other, and a mix of the two should be best in real world situations.

Frederick Taylor’s view of organizations is linear and straightforward. It fits well in managing factories that are basically extended machines. However, 21st century service organizations where knowledge workers rather than machines create value are more complex entities. We are just starting to learn how to manage these entities, thanks to Peter Drucker, Peter Senge and a new breed of management gurus. The next book by Senge’s group (“The Dance of Change: the Challenges to Sustaining Momentum in Learning Organizations,” 1999) reflects the difficulties faced by this new breed. It was around the same time when a group of management theorists and practitioners assembled at the Harvard Business School and debated on the fixing/mechanic-versus-nurturing/gardener polarity (or the Theory E versus Theory O; see Beer and Nohria’s “Breaking the Code of Change”). After reading the interesting debate I reached the conclusion that it is not an “either/or” choice but more a “both/and”.

The learning process in organizations is one of the features that distinguishes the two viewpoints.

The process of organizational learning and the nature of human knowledge are two great issues at the root of the amusing confusions among practitioners of organizational learning and knowledge management. The book “Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future” (2004) by Senge and his colleagues at the Society for Organizational Learning raises a third great issue: the human process of innovation.

From our workshops in 1999 CCLFI discovered that the most fulfilling moments in a person’s life are of four types, and for some deep and unknown reason, all the four types are fundamentally creative moments. People are happiest or most fulfilled when they perform or participate in a creative process. We are not sure why. Csiksczentmihalyi, after studying these creative moments, observed that the person’s experience is like forgetting one’s self in a process he labeled as “flow” (see: “Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention,” 1996). The new field of transpersonal psychology has formed itself around the study of such experiences.

In Senge’s language, “presencing” is the art and practice of consciously entering a creative space and process where innovation can take place. It is “pre-sensing” the future and participating in bring about the future into the present. It is internally sensing what is emergent within and without. It calls forth the intrapersonal and/or transpersonal skill of entering the quiet creative wellspring within yourself: the bottom of the “U” according Otto Scharmer (see his book “Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges”) or the “flow” of Csiksczentmihalyi.

At CCLFI we have experienced these creative moments. We observed in our workshops that almost everyone had experienced this moment at some time in their life, although they may not consciously recognize it as such. Perhaps it is not a largely cognitive process. We are at a loss to come up with words to describe the experience. “The mind is the last to know,” I tell my colleagues.

All these may sound “New Age-y” to some, but in the end, innovation is essential for hard-nosed business survival or even planetary survival. In the end, we must be able to connect the intangible experiential process of creation with its tangible benefits to the rest of the world. Whether businessmen or business school professors like it or not, we must continue to strive to understand the deeper nature of human creativity and innovation — and put that understanding to work in practical problems that confront not only businessmen but also prime ministers, not only factory managers but also peace negotiators.

Let me end with a quote from Secretary General Takenaka of the Asian Productivity Organization:

    “The days when incremental or continuous improvement preoccupied corporate managers are over. It is to innovation and breakthroughs that those managers have turned their attention. For achieving innovation, the most relevant tool is no longer quality control or quality management. It is knowledge management in its broadest sense, which includes value creation or knowledge creation that is the most relevant.”

Tell us what you think.

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Q14- Naming Trans-Societal Megatrend #1: “Towards Yin”?

February 13, 2009

Let us practice discerning patterns or sensing the emergent. In simple words, let us practice “connecting the dots.”

What seems to be the common or underlying thread across the following trends?

Corporate wealth: intangible assets, and no longer tangible assets, constitute most of market value of corporations. Intangible assets include human and relationship capital. Most of organizational knowledge is in the form of tacit knowledge instead of explicit knowledge.

Global economy: In most national economies, more GDP is being created from services (human knowledge) than from industry (processing of resources).

Community development: successful anti-poverty projects are those that leverage on a community’s intangible assets (and not on its tangible assets).

Educational psychology: Intelligence was believed by psychologists to be basically only twofold: mathematical and linguistic. Now, multiple intelligence is recognized, which also includes emotional, spatial, inter-personal and intra-personal intelligence. Many researchers found that EQ is the more important determinant of success at work and in life than IQ. A “spiritual quotient” was also proposed.

National development: Before, development was viewed in largely economic terms (measured in GNP or GDP); now the prevailing goal is sustainable development which also includes the socio-cultural and ecological dimensions. UNDP developed the Human Development Index to complement GDP and other material measures. Gender equality is becoming a global norm.

Security: Before, security was viewed from statist and military terms. Now there are terms used in the United Nations discourses such as “food security”, “ecological security” and “human security”.

Attitude to environment: A shift is taking place from control perspective to harmony perspective and from man-nature dichotomy to man-as-part-of-nature or organic thinking.

Psychology: Empirical-clinical psychology is now complemented by paranormal psychology, transpersonal psychology and phenomenological research.

International conflicts: Root-causes of conflicts before were largely ideological and territorial; now conflicts are also non-military and due to trade, technological, religious and ethnic-cultural causes.

Religion: Beliefs in a male or transcendent God are now complemented by beliefs in a female or immanent God; in Christianity, creation spirituality is an alternative to fall-redemption spirituality. In Catholicism, Vatican II shifted towards priesthood of the laity.

Organizational dynamics: A shift is going on from hierarchical or vertical dynamics to more flat or network dynamics; from a Taylorist and mechanic view of organizations to a Senge and learning-growing or gardener view of organizations.

What is happening? Can you connect the dots? The connection seems to be cutting across various disciplines and sectors: it is trans-societal. It is a trend across many trends: it is a mega-trend

What qualities seem to be emerging?



How do we name this trans-societal mega-trend? After I presented the above ideas in a conference in Taipeh in 1999, a Singaporean professor suggested that the above changes can be described, using the Yin-Yang Chinese cosmology, as a movement towards Yin. [Thank you to Catherine Auman who suggested that we are not replacing Yang with Yin but we are moving towards a world where both are equally valued.]

Do you agree? What do you think?

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