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Integral Vision: The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts

  • Posted by: asadmin

The new model of leadership in the twenty-first century embraces the characteristics of a mediator according to Mark Gerzon, Leading Through Conflict: How Successful Leaders Transform Differences into Opportunities, Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2006. Print.

In this post we discuss integral vision and systems thinking. “If integral vision is the goal, systems thinking is the map”.  As a mediator I see the characteristic of integral vision as the eternal optimism that I bring to each case. I look at a case from a systems approach, so settlement possibilities emerge that parties, often stuck in their narrow perspective, can’t envision on their own.

Integral Vision

By integral vision we mean looking at the conflict from a large scale macro type perspective. Mediators stand for possibility of a solution, where the individuals, companies or countries can’t imagine one.

Developing the capacity and skill of integral vision is a continual learning process. We naturally see things as separate. Everyone comes with their own unique thoughts, feelings, and world view. We are born into families, cultures, countries that have boundaries and define us as separate groups. To have integral vision means to develop enormous capacity for compassion and seeing multiple views. It’s like a mountain climber at the peak, who looks down and sees the craggy landscape of the earth, no state or territorial borders are visible. “Integral vision means understanding divergent worldviews but not being limited by or trapped within them. Fear is the greatest enemy of integral vision”. When we’re trapped by fear we respond with stereotypes. A leader operating with stereotype visions can’t have integral vision.

Leaders demonstrating integral vision need to ask broad questions. Long term needs must be the drivers. They need to provide clear direction and motivation to change. As a leader or manager, develop the sensitivity to language so that your words don’t communicate an either-or perspective but a wide open panorama.

Systems Thinking

Systems thinking means identifying all of the significant elements related to the conflict and understanding the relationship between them. This means thinking beyond one’s own narrow interests. It means considering the other side’s viewpoint and even expanding the scope of the problem or conflict to consider other stakeholders who might be involved. This mediator skill of systems thinking mirrors one of the problem solving negotiation steps of distinguishing interests from positions. Fisher, Roger, William Ury, and Bruce Patton. Getting to Yes: Negotiating an Agreement without Giving in. London: Random House Business, 1999. Print.

In an increasingly interdependent world a conflict that effects one department, team or company is likely to impact another. If we look at a problem from a systems perspective, we have the possibility of expanding beyond our parochial self serving interests. Systems thinking means out of the box thinking.

If we use a systems thinking approach we will begin to see and hopefully understand perspectives of each other differently. It doesn’t have to be complex.

What happens if we don’t use systems thinking? Parties resort to oversimplified explanations of the problem which often demonize or marginalize the issues of the other side. What is currently happening in the U.S. Congress is a prime example.

Be careful not to let an “us versus them” mentality start interfering with a broader take on the problem or conflict.

Ellen F. Kandell is a certified professional mediator and attorney with over 30 years of public and private sector experience. She provides mediation, group facilitation and training to diverse, national clients. Get in touch with her via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, or give her a call at 301-588-5390.

Author: asadmin

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