Ken Wilber’s Quadrants System and Strategy

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Michael Brooks


June 13, 2011

Ken Wilber’s Quadrants System and Strategy

Have you ever come across a picture of this guy at your local bookseller? Ken Wilber is something of an eccentric, intellectual hot shot. Wilber covers an unbelievable amount of ground and while I think in some places he misses a lot, his reach and attempt at integration is undeniable. His basic mission is to fit systems and worldviews together in a way that allows genuine room for as many perspectives as possible. One of the ways he does this is his ‘Quadrant’ system.

Wilber’s Quadrant system attempts to integrate social, individual, objective and subjective views of the world. The end result is a deeper understanding of how all the many parts of ourselves and our systems in relate to one another.

Ken Wilber’s, theory of quadrants is as follows:

Upper Right: Objective personal systems, brain chemistry, health, physical realities of the body.

Upper Left: Subjective personal stories, stories that describe our lives, our interpretation of reality and the stories we tell ourselves.

Lower Right: Objective social systems, economic systems, currency systems, organizational structures, role descriptions.

Lower Left: Myths and stories, cultural narratives. organizational value systems. 

Needless to say, all systems are working in an organizational context. In many cases, certain groups focus on one dimension of the quadrants without addressing the others. Keeping all quadrants in mind helps illuminate the entirety of a problem or challenge.

Looking at the explanations for the collapse of Wall Street, we can see all of the different quadrants in play. Some people focus on the lack of regulation and over-sight (Lower Right), Simon Johnson’s idea of “cognitive capture” that describes the ideological commitment to deregulation shared by most of Washington and Wall Street (Lower Left). In the academy award winning documentary Inside Job, a therapist who treated a number of Wall Street patients addressed some of the specific mental health issues often seen on Wall Street (Upper Left and Upper Right).

The prime takeaway from the Quadrants is that all of these explanations have validity. In certain situations one Quadrant may be predominant, but in almost all cases each Quadrant is activated. For strategists working with organizations or movements the Quadrant model can serve as an elegant way of addressing and meeting the needs of different stakeholders. Each Stakeholder may reflect a different part of the Quadrant depending on their organizational position or worldview. 

With this integral view in mind strategists can remember and execute from a larger view of processes and systems. This methodology is immediately applicable. The next time you are meeting with your team or dealing with a organizational question think of the Quadrants and ask what type of solutions would address all Quadrants.

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Thanks for the feedback! Eric, I'm going to do a follow up post on some of Wilber's thinking on values systems
Nice Piece Micahel. I have been working to connect AQAL more explicity to bussiness. Would love to chat. I am at @darbtx
I have not heard about Quadrant's System. However, it seems that this theory can definitely hepl me especially in home and in my work as well. I am a teacher and it is basically related with socializing to different personalities. Thus, it has been said here that Quadrant System will be attempting to integrate ocial, individual, objective and subjective views of the world. I think this is perfect for me. :)

Thanks Michael, I'm a big Ken Wilber fan, happy to see him mentioned on our blog. I highly recommend his book A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science, and Spirituality.

In addition to quadrants, Ken Wilber also offers a profound description of waves of existence, or levels of consciousness. Three in particular that I feel like I see every day are Blue: Mythic Order, Orange: Scientific Achievement, and Green: The Sensitive Self. An all-quadrants all-levels approach can benefit almost any organization.