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Integral Business
- Management der Zukunft?

Im Juli 2004 hatte das  TriAngel-Zentrum die Gelegenheit, den amerikanischen Unternehmensberater Fred Kofman über seinen Ansatz des "Integral Business" zu interviewen. Die Beratungsform basiert auf  dem integralen Modell des amerikanischen Philosophen und Bewusstseinsforschers Ken Wilber. Kofman leitet das von ihm vor zwei Jahren in Miami, Florida gegründete internationale Beratungsunternehmen Axialent. Darüber hinaus ist der ehemalige Harvard-Professor für Betriebswirtschaft Mitglied des von Ken Wilber gründeten Integral-Institute, in dem zahlreiche Wissenschaftler aller Disziplinen zusammenarbeiten. Im Rahmen der Arbeit des in Boulder, Colorado ansässigen Institutes veranstalten Kofman und Wilber gemeinsame Seminare zu neuen Ansätzen in der Unternehmensführung.

Das Interview führte Erik Prochnow.

TriAngel-Scouting: Mr. Kofman, what new has the concept of integral business to offer?

Kofman:  It offers a new perspective for a better functioning in companies by addressing the complexity of the human being. That means that science, interpersonal relations and inner psychological aspects are looked at simultaneously. The concept of integral business integrates the three major dimensions of existence - objective, subjective and inter-subjective- into a coherent whole. It presents a comprehensive map of the knowledge that humanity has accumulated in fields such as physics, biology, philosophy, psychology, spirituality, sociology, economics, cybernetics, and many others that, till today, have remained disconnected. 

TriAngel-Scouting: There are a lot of management theories that promise that.

Kofman:  Promising is easy, delivering is hard. Although people in business talk about integration, the concepts that they use are usually not really integral. Most entrepreneurs or managers look at their job as if it were an iceberg. They only see the visible part above the water line and believe that is the reality.  That part represents the figures, facts and the hard data of management science. Their implicit assumption is that all that they need to deal with in order to create a successful organization is unconscious things such as machines and computer systems. But the biggest influences on the economy lies in the depth, below the iceberg’s “water line,” so to speak. What makes a difference for a business is the personal experience and the interpersonal relations of its human beings; that is to say, conscious beings. Our consciousness and our indivudality is formed  by our perception, thoughts, feelings, talents, health, etc. And unless a company deals with those – intangible and thus generally invisible - aspects, it will flounder. Let’s remember that what sank the Titanic lied under water.

 TriAngel-Scouting:  The notion of the emotional intelligence is nothing new and already established in many companies.

 Kofman:  True, but emotional intelligence is only one of many lines of human development. According to the integral model, there are at least 20 different intelligences or “developmental lines”. Some examples are cognitive, emotional, kinesthetic, spiritual, moral, psycho-sexual, interpersonal, self-needs, etc.. These intelligences or lines develop in stages, which leads to different states of maturity and different behaviour in everyday life. The problem is that this development is not uniform. For example, a healthy 40 year old has a much higher cognitive ability than a five-year old child, but many managers which are cognitively very “smart” display emotional and interpersonal behavior more suitable to a small child.

TriAngel-Scouting:  Please explain that.

 Kofman:  The most important intelligence in western societies is still the cognitive one. That is where we are most developed. Cognitive development is necessary, but not sufficient for the development in the emotional, moral or interpersonal lines. That can create a tremendous gap between what we intellectually know we “ought to do” and what we actually do. A good example is smoking. Many people still smoke although they know of its dangerous effects on their health. The integral approach therefore never solely concentrates on the abstractly cognitive. Instead through a variety of exercises it fosters the development of the human being in its multiple dimensions—especially the meaning-giving dimension of “spirit”.

 TriAngel-Scouting:  With what goal?

 Kofman:  There are two goals: an operational and a transcendent one. From an operational standpoint, the Integral Business Approach attempts to help companies attain their objective: exeptional sustainable results such as profit, growth, innovation, flexibility and customer delight. As we know from our research,  long-term excellence is only possible with an integral perspective. The increasing complexity of today’s business world cannot be managed with a map that only considers disjointed parts. Imagining the earth as flat only worked as long as the economy was not global. To be successful in our times it is necessary to adopt a more comprehensive paradigm, a paradigm such as Integral Theory.

 TriAngel-Scouting:  How can that be achieved in everyday work?

 Kofman:  It is essential that besides worrying about the technical dimension the leaders of an organization also look at the inner growth of their people and the health of their relationships. In addition to being profitable, a company needs to foster a sense of satisfaction and well being in its employees, and a sense of community and mutual respect. Growth is only possible if the three dimensions are brought into awareness, made conscious, integrated and expressed in a healthy way. 

 TriAngel-Scouting:  Do you have an example?

 Kofman:  Let’s take globalization and the need of many companies to compete in the world economy as integrated entities. Although companies spend a lot of money on computer technology, new machinery, or sophisiticated management systems, the integrations prove to be very challenging. And this is not for lack of technological skills. The stumbling blocks most often encountered belong to the human dimensions. Axialent, the consulting company I preside, has helped global organizations such as Cisco, Microsoft, Unilever, Shell, Chrysler, Coca-Cola and others to deal with this situation. Only when the leadership team understands the different cultures and their different interpersonal, moral, emotional and spiritual levels of development, can they bring the sub-organizations to see themselves as part of a larger whole, and align their behaviors in the pursuit of a common integrated goal.

 TriAngel-Scouting:  What steps are necessary?

 Kofman:  First leaders have to accept that inner growth is a process over time, and not an event. Moreover the traditional classroom training can no longer be the only way of educating people. An environment is necessary which develops body, heart, mind and spirit simultaneously. Simulating business situations  has to be as important as exercises to develop interpersonal relations or meditation to reflect on yourself. And the transfer into everday work has to be guaranteed through regular coaching.

 TriAngel-Scouting:  What are the consequences for entrepreneurs and managers?

 Kofman: They have to realize that they cannot change other people. They can only invite and support the transformation, but each person has to decide to change on their own. Entrepreneurs and managers only have the possibility to create the environment where people can change themselves. And that is only possible if the leaders themselves are an example of willingness to learn.