July was a busy month and one in which I immersed myself in two of my favorite worlds—The Association for Psychological Type International biennial conference and the Integral Theory Conference, also a biennial event. These two worlds have some things in common. Both address the concepts of types and valuing individual differences and in both the participants are passionate and dedicated to making the world a better place. Yet, no one from one context showed up at the others’ conferences. In a series of blog posts I will share some of my experiences and insights from both of these worlds, hoping to bring the benefits of both worlds to you all. In September, I will be presenting at the Integral Leadership in Action conference so will share insights from that experience as well. For now, here are my perspectives on the theories and the organizations that are at the leading edge of these worlds. I hope you are moved to get involved in both of them.
Psychological type had it origins in the 1920s with great thinkers like Carl Jung, Ernst Kretschmer, Eduard Spränger, William Marston and more. Most people will reference Carl Jung, but it was a greater movement that he was part of that planted the seeds for related typologies that inform our understandings of personality type in general. You can read more about the history of this movement in the article: The Leading Edge of Psychological Type. Since the concept of personality took off again in the early 1980s, there have been a multitude of organizations that promote their versions of psychological type with instruments, web-based tools, certification programs, and consulting services. There is great value in this diversity as it keeps us moving the work forward. Nearly all of these organizations would align around a larger ‘why’. They all believe that understanding individual differences does make a difference for individuals, relationships, and organizations. And in the end, this understanding can make the world a better place. And some, like me, believe that this is crucial for the survival of our planet and humanity.
There is only one membership organization that represents the rich diversity that all of these other organizations and individual practitioners provide to the field and that is dedicated to that big ‘why’ in an agnostic way. I’ve been a member since 1980, just after that early formation, in leadership positions at different times, and am proud to be the current president. Through my involvement, I have had some of the deepest learnings, most growth-producing experiences, and richest relationships of my life. The Association for Psychological Type International began in 1979 as an organization that would help foster an understanding of individual differences, especially those that are indicated by the use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® instrument. At the formation meeting the founders included Otto Kroeger, Gordon Lawrence, and David Keirsey among other thought leaders interested in psychological type. So from the beginning it has attracted professionals on the leading edge and embraced David Keirsey’s work on Temperament theory as well as Isabel Myers’ work on an instrument to help people identify their preferences for Jung’s eight mental processes. Since that time it has become an organization where professionals can be in community with other like-minded professionals and be exposed to different views on typology, leading-edge developments in theory, tools, and practical applications. Along with local chapters APTi also provides ways for those with a personal interest as well as a professional interest to connect and learn together.
I am relatively new to Integral Theory, yet not new to some of the fundamentals of the theory and practices. I was attracted to it as I learned more about the work of philosopher, Ken Wilber, the creator of Integral Theory. His early book, A Brief History of Everything, found its way into my library years ago, but sat there unread. In 2006, Brian Robertson, a participant in many of our workshops and now creator of Holacracy, introduced it to me in a big way and I visited Integral Institute and got to sit in on a meeting with Ken Wilber. Brian told me he thought my approach to typology was ‘integral’ in nature and therefore those people who liked Integral Theory would also be attracted to my approach. So I bought more books, read A Brief Theory of Everything, watched videos of Ken Wilber, joined Integral Life, and began calling my version of typology, Integral Type (which I later changed to Integrated Type). In 2011 and 2012, I attended several workshops with leaders in the Integral Movement. And indeed, those I met liked my approach. The response has been amazingly receptive.
The concept of ‘Types’ is one of the five main elements of Integral Theory. Some people at the Integral Theory Conference knew of my work. Some in the ‘integral community’ think of psychological types mainly in terms of the MBTI® instrument. More embrace the Enneagram as more relevant to the growth and transformation work they do. I have heard from some in the integral community that they use the MBTI® instrument because their business clients like it, but they prefer the Enneagram. Others have found the idea of types to be much broader than either of these. My presentation was called: “A Meta-Model for Types—Patterns, Polarities, and Autopoiesis”. I was very pleased that I won honorable mention for best paper in the category of the upper left quadrant of the AQAL matrix (Individual, Subjective, which is the source of our sense of self and how we make meaning of the world). My goal was to draw attention to some principles that we all can use in understanding and using type in a health producing way and with a robust typology. My paper will be published later this year in the Journal of Integral Theory and Practice, but you can access it here now.
There are several organizations that foster the development and applications of Integral Theory. Meta Integral is the sponsor of the Integral Theory Conference and takes a broad view of Integral Theory. Integral Leadership in Action is a collective of many professionals who apply Integral Theory to leadership. One of the best places to get more information is Integral Life. Most of these are focused on what is called vertical development and see types as only relative to horizontal development. And many of the concerns of those in the integral community are about large global problems and the future of the planet. I, for one, see a relationship between the use of type and solving some of the problems we face globally and I really value the exposure to those who are actively working in sustainability, culture, ecology, government and more. So much to learn.
Uniting the Two Worlds
I hope you have been inspired to explore either or both of these worlds. There is so much to be done and so much we can do together. Understanding individual differences does make a difference. And we need to pay attention to the larger contexts in which these differences play out. Integral Theory gives typologists a map for ways we can use type that we hadn’t thought about. And typologists can give integralists health-producing ways of getting to polarity management, perspective taking, and vertical as well as horizontal development. So stay tuned for the next blogs in this series.