Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Transformative Workplace

"If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself, if you want to eliminate
the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself.
Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.”
Lao Tzu

The premise of our work-in-progress book, The Transformative Workplace: Growing People, Purpose, Prosperity and Peace, is that the places we work must become the places where we not only contribute to accomplishing the aims and purposes of the organization, but places where we can develop our own potential as highly functioning, fully conscious people who can contribute to making a better world for all. Currently, such workplaces appear to be few and far between, but they do exist around the world, in all sectors and most societies. We were most fortunate to visit many of them during David’s sabbatical which took us to 13 countries on 5 continents.
These organizations, and the leaders and managers we interviewed, serve as examples and inspiration for how the workplace can be the context in which we can meet our basic needs, increase our competence, challenge our assumptions, attend to our well-being, connect our passion to our productivity, make and fulfill commitments to ourselves and others, express our creativity, collaborate across difference, embrace great work, work collaboratively with others, become happier and more peaceful, and give back to our communities and societies.
A further premise is that we become more highly functioning and more fully conscious human beings by progressing through stages of development throughout our adult lives.  These stages have been named, defined and described differently by different scholars and researchers, from Lawrence Kohlberg and Carol Gilligan’s work in moral development; to Robert Kegan’s orders of mind; Robert Torbert and Suzanne Cook-Greuter’s work focusing on levels of leadership development; to the integral theory of Ken Wilbur; and, to the quite familiar self-actualization approach based on needs satisfaction studied by Abraham Maslow, among many others. 

All theories and approaches have their advocates and their critics, and each speaks to a different way of viewing the study of adult development over time. One simple framework that we set forth in the book comes from Richard Barrett, an internationally recognized consultant on leadership, values and culture in business and society, and the author of a number of books including The New Leadership Paradigm (2011). Barrett has developed a model of “Seven Levels of Consciousness” that draws on Maslow’s  Hierarchy of Needs and the views of  Vedic Science. The seven levels provide a way of thinking about how we, as adults, continue to develop over time. His levels include:

Level 1:  Survival; Feeling secure and safe in the world.
Level 2:  Relationship; Feeling a sense of love and belonging.
Level 3:  Self-esteem; Feeling a sense of personal self-worth.
Level 4:  Transformation; The level of self-activation or becoming the author of our own lives
Level 5:  Internal Cohesion; Blending together of the ego and the soul
Level 6:  Making a Difference; Activating your soul’s purpose
Level 7:  Service; Making a difference becomes a way of life

As we progress through and among the levels of consciousness, according to Barrett, “we feel an increasing sense of connectedness to the world that shows up as an expanded sense of identity. We feel a sense of oneness with ourselves, with our family, with our community, with the organization we work for, with our nation, with humanity and the planet, and eventually with the whole of creation.”

Yet another premise of the book is that we move through (and in and out of) these stages of adult development through a process of “transformative learning.” As described by Patricia Cranton, Professor of Adult Education at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, Canada, transformative learning “is elegantly simple. Through some event, which could be as traumatic as losing a job or as ordinary as an unexpected question, an individual becomes aware of holding a limiting or distorted view. If the individual critically examines this view, opens herself to alternatives, and consequently changes the way she sees things, she has transformed some part of how she makes meaning out of the world.”

Transformative workplaces, then, are organizations (or communities or societies) that help us progress through the stages of adult development by providing us with transformative learning experiences in our daily worklives. To name just a few of these organizations whose stories will be told in The Transformative Workplace, we begin with Creative Handicrafts in Mumbai, India, an organization that helps women from the city’s slums meet their basic needs for food, shelter, safety and security by producing high quality products that are sold in international markets. Also in Mumbai, we tell the story of Tata Motors, an emerging global automotive giant and part of the Tata Group, known the world over as an organization that gives back and makes a difference. Still another story is about Nomfundo Walaza, Chief Executive Officer of the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre in Cape Town, South Africa, whose life and the organization she leads are the very essence of what it means to embrace compassion for all living things.

We hope that these stories and many more will inspire our readers as much as those we interviewed in our travels inspired us to want to share their wisdom and insights. Watch this space for the stories to unfold.

Blessings to all, Dave and Carole


  1. This is a great preview of your book. I understand how you define transformative workplaces, what they do for the people who work in them. I want to find one of those places in my adulthood, and am looking forward to reading the stories to come! Thanks for sharing what you've learned through your work experiences, travel, and research with the rest of us. I'm staying tuned!

  2. I'm intrigued and looking forward to hearing more!
    Have you thought of presenting at TED talks when you have completed your manuscript?