Bio-Transformation Theory & Practice® Gem 6: The Six Spirals Of Transformational Action
Understand the Way of Transformation: the archetypal blueprint and pathway for achieving lasting, positive change in yourself and the systems you participate in
Stabilized within the Transformer stage of leadership development, we now turn ourselves to resolving the transformational challenges we are facing: naturally thrown up by mismatches between our organization and the fast- and dramatically changing world. With each transformational challenge we encounter as a transformational leader, I have identified six loops or “spirals” of sensing-feeling-thinking-acting that occur as we move from a focus on how we are showing up as an individual self . . . right to how we can use each unique moment positively to impact the system of which we are part.
Each of the six loops or spirals act as a specific sense-making and decision-making lens to see the challenge through. Each lens helps us to focus on a specific aspect of every transformational challenge in an effective sequence. Each helps us focus our scant cognitive and emotional attention within our hara, heart, head, and hands on the most salient features of a challenge. As we cycle through each spiral, we spot mismatches and maladaptations in protective patterns within ourselves, our teams, our organization, and our system. We metabolize each ‘problem’ within every spiral into value-creating ideas.
The six spirals start in the very core of our conscious being and end in the great web of systems that characterize metamodern life. We start by looking through a lens that draws our attention to our own felt sense within our emotional state of regulation, the self-talk and stories running in our mind, and the habits we are using to deal with things as they are. We then progress through ever-expanding circles of action until we reach the system: the flows of money, information, goods, services, and carbon that constitute our industry or the global system as whole.
We start by transforming our selves; and progress smoothly, eventually in minutes and even seconds, to the system. On the way from self to system we focus attention on: how we act in the world with integrity and purpose; how to align our team members around our purpose and ambition; how to ensure our organization innovates to fit our purposeful ambitions; and how to engage, inspire, and influence others to change to deliver those innovations in the system . . . before returning back to the self again, tweaking how we show up in the next moment. It becomes one seamless loop of inquiry and action.
The six spirals act as a short-term ‘heuristic,’ or rule-of-thumb, that guides us in each moment with how to approach a transformational challenge. We ask and answer specific questions in each spiral. The rules of thumb ensure we don’t forget pertinent principles and inquiries, which often happens when we are ruled by a rigid pattern. C&P Mode protective patterns are expert at eliding important details and ignoring crucial moments of reflection and insight in their rush to solve a problem quickly and safely.
The six spirals also act as a model for how to develop ourselves as transformational leaders long term. Each spiral can be used to find areas of under-development that can form our leadership edge for the coming weeks and months. In other words, the six spirals work both immanently, in the moment, to orient us with what to do next; and transcendentally, to guide us long-term in our mastery of as transformational leadership.
Over time, it is crucial for us to develop skills and qualities in all of six of the spirals in order to continuously metabolize constant change in the outside world into value within ourselves and our organizations. Each spiral, as well as being a learning-doing loop, is therefore a pillar in my enterprise’s curriculum for transformational leadership. By using analytical consciousness to break what is really whole — the integrated being-doing of a transformational leader — we get a full-spectrum leadership model, assessment framework, and curriculum.
However, although they can be seen as distinct spirals, they always remain one fluid movement. They are at once bothseparate spirals in a diverse range of leadership capabilities and part of one united way of leading transformationally. We must always remember to see our leadership capability through the worldview of our connective consciousness as much as our analytical one.
Within each spiral there are elements of C-BC and I-AC. I think of the spiral as a double-helix that unfolds and expands as it goes from the inner game deep inside an individual right through to the expansive outer game of systemic change. C-BC and I-AC are the strands of the double helix. In every moment and movement of leadership, we are tapping into our capacity to think/act and sense/feel ever-more systemically. Each spiral has a different weighting of the two strands depending on whether the focus is more affective-interoceptive or cognitive-behavioral.
At the start of each leadership spiral, our focus will naturally be more within, focused on the blockages and fixations inside us that are preventing us from solving a transformational challenge. As we progress from inner world to outer world — moving through team, project, enterprise, and system — the relative weighting between the two extremes changes. For example, when we are most externally-focused — say engaged in leading systemic change — we will primarily be focused on co-creating interventions that solve complex problems in the outer world. This will require prodigious levels of cognitive-behavioral complexity. But even then, we must always remember to check in with ourselves about our own inner conditions and conditioning — and empathically explore how our ideas are landing with people across the system — before, during, and after each intervention.
In the following chapters I briefly lay out the terrain of each spiral and how it can help us in the moment; and longer term over months and years to land adaptive transformation that keep us fitted. Each deserves a book or three of its own (and I cover some of the topics on much more depth in other publications); but a few pages will have to suffice to help orient you to the terrain of each. Bear in mind that although I set them out as a linear progression from deep within to the system, we often flip among different spirals during the day. Transformation is always non-linear by definition. Models and sequences attempt to create sense and simplicity out of a very complex and chaotic reality. The sequence is useful; yet just a map not the territory itself.