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Integral Scenario Development

How to develop scenarios inspired by integral futures methods and principles? C.C. Stewart offers some interesting ideas in INTEGRAL SCENARIO DEVELOPMENT: Introducing an AQAL Root Questions Method

A generic aim of scenario planning, as with many Futures Studies methodologies, is to broaden and deepen perceptual filters so as to find new and relevant meaning in 'weak signals from the future.'

The first organising concept, and indeed the foundation concept of IS, is that of 'holons' and 'holarchy.' The term holon was coined by Arthur Koestler in 1964 to refer to anything that is simultaneously a whole and a part: holon = whole/part.

In Wilber's own words 'the whole, in other words, is more than the sum of its parts, and that whole can influence and determine, in many cases, the function of its parts.

Wilber's defining assertion regarding holons is that anything humans know can be abstractly conceived of as a holon, which is likely a part of a series of holons, or a holarchy: a natural 'hierarchy' of increasing wholeness.

Lining up as many types of holons and their associated holarchies as he could find in different disciplines, Wilber employs his second core concept: quadrants.

The core value of the quadrants is they allowed Wilber to align the different types of truth statements, or orientating generalisations, that the many different disciplines had disclosed: generating a four dimensional holarchy of human reality.

As implied by the nature of holarchies, reality appears to follow a developmental logic. Each new stage, or holon, transcends and includes, as part, the preceding holons, and adds its own new organising regime of wholeness to the holarchy.20 This unfoldment of holons as holarchy creates an observable pattern of increasing wholeness and complexity that can be tracked in each quadrant: or simply put, levels.

In each quadrant different lines, or different holarchies are unfolding.

Taken together these elements provide the foundations of the IS approach known as AQAL meta- theory. Holons, their holarchies, the quadrants they exist in, their levels and differentiating lines form the main elements we will consider within this essay, and refer to as AQAL.

In FS, Richard Slaughter first draws on the insight of 'transcending flatland' from Integral AQAL meta-theory. The charge is that modern FS, like many modern disciplines of knowledge enquiry and practice, has unduly emphasised a limited worldview of rationalistic, instrumental and monological perception and validity acceptance. That is, FS has focused on the right hand (RH) quadrants. Seeing only surfaces, objective 'its' of the RH quadrants, Wilber has called a 'flatland' view. The warrant of the flatland charge is the ample proof of many other ways of knowing and being in the world.24 The call for transcendence concerns the inclusion of the qualitative, subjective (UL) and inter-subjective (LL) dimensions of all experiences in a way that consciously acknowledges these differences and appreciates the significance they have for all human endeavour and knowledge creation.

the holonic construct, four fundamental dimensions of, or perspectives on, existence and the spectrum of worldview levels provide a significantly broader and deeper means of conceptualising the world than most FS methods to date.

Wilber suggests three broad principles of practice (POP) to describe and guide the nature of applying IS AQAL meta-theory as an Integral paradigm: non-exclusion, unfoldment and enactment.33 Taken together they assist in the recreation of the AQAL framework with content from the subject of focus.34

Non-exclusion reminds us that different perspectives and interpretations should actively be sought and incorporated into any Integral activity.35 Obviously, the richer the range of differences included in any activity, the broader relevance the outcomes can potentially achieve.

In short, non- exclusion means 'everybody is right,' given the assumption that 'no one is smart enough to be 100% wrong,' every paradigm, idea, data set, analysis, or such, reflecting different perspectives will hold a true but partial piece of the Integral puzzle.

Unfoldment summarises the vast amount of evidence in numerous disciplines of enquiry that confirm an evolutionary nature of existence.

This reflects the call for depth in FS methodologies. Unfoldment suggests that in any data, information, knowledge and so on, an evolutionary perspective be taken to investigate antecedents, its compound composition, components internal to the holon of focus, and possible and/or probable developments of that holarchies further unfolding, or what it is internal to.

Enactment reminds us that interpretation and interaction, or enactment, are fundamental features of all knowledge creation and application.39 It reminds us that nothing is strictly objective, as the very act of observing requires a mutual enactment of a phenomenological space. Enactment reflects the call of 'critical FS' to acknowledge the social-cultural situatedness of all knowledge.

In drawing together a conceptual map of as many aspects as possible relevant to the subject of an activity, it is inevitable that many will conflict. In order to deal with this intractable problem, Wilber proposes a 'calculus of uncomfort.'41 Simply put, it means to assess the options for integration of variables in a manner that determines the least amount of distortion, conflict or 'uncomfort.' Critical FS's transparent motivation of emancipatory intent is echoed in this POP. The calculus of uncomfort implies openly accepting the limitations of mental models of the world, that maps will never be territories, and encourages the development of relatively more accurate and healthy frameworks of knowledge that cause less amounts of distortion and uncomfort.

These POP taken together with the organising concepts of quadrants, levels and lines can guide the creation of an Integral meta-paradigm, or what Wilber calls an Integral Methodological Pluralism (IMP).42 An IMP approach actively invites considerably more depth and breadth in approaching a given subject than other methods currently available in scenario literature and FS generally.

Each of the steps in the scenario development process can be approached differently, depending chiefly upon the intended purpose and place of the scenario planning activity within the organisation it is for.

it would seem at first most useful to engage the POP and IMP as guiding principles, or organising policies, to be kept in mind throughout the designing, conducting and assessing of a scenario development process.

There is an extensive range of input and analysis techniques in use.47 Environmental scanning (ES) is one of these input methods.

It is common within FS, and human enquiry generally, to use the proven valuable approach of asking guiding or powerful questions to bring to the surface any underlying unconscious assumptions and observations.49 Building on this fundamental aspect of enquiry, AQAL's organising concepts could be framed as questions within the context of the subject of focus.

It is common that each subject-holon of focus for the scenario process will be phrased as a question containing an actor ('who') and factor ('what'). To this question, set within a time horizon ('when'), the quadratic questions are addressed, identifying related actors and factors.

Here the concepts of levels of a holarchy, and lines of holarchies within, or relevant to, the holon- subject of focus, can be employed. The developmental sequence nature implied by the definition of a holon in constructing a holarchy leads to the next root questions. Because a holon is a whole part, once a subject-holon is identified as a whole, it begs the question of what is it a part? And similarly, what wholes are a part of it? The answers to these questions facilitate organisation of the responses to the first six root questions. This can be summarised as two holarchy root questions: QQ is internal to X? QQ is X internal to? Where 'QQ' is the root quadrant question and 'X' is actor/factor or subject-holon already identified.

In addition to the six root questions and two root holarchy questions, the POP can further add rigour to this approach. Using the POP as guiding policies or rules of engagement was identified above as a means of conducting an ISD. Another, complimentary approach, would be to derive questions from them as well. Nonexclusion could lead to asking 'Have we sought out as many relevant perspectives as possible?' Perspectives could be swapped with actors, or factors, and so on to suit the context in which the question is posed. Enactment leads to asking questions like 'Have we actively sought to identify (surface, objectify) the perspectives/mental models we have used in each stage of the process?' 'How might our perspectives effect what we have identified?' 'Are there others we haven't included?' 'Why not?' Unfoldment should prompt questions, such as, 'Have we identified relationships among the different variables identified?' 'Are there other evolutionary sequences and casual chains (vertical and horizontal relationships) that might link and summarise these variables?' 'How might these sequences be meta-linked?' The scenario development process appears to already include these questions, however, finding their relevance within an IS approach is important.

Once the variables are identified using the root questions, linked via holarchy questions, and rigorously checked using the POPs as questions, an integrated and ordered picture concerning the master subject-holon should emerge. Using AQAL questions and mapping facilitates the information gathering and analysis process and covers the majority of the first two steps of the generic scenario development process

What remains in 'Step 2' is to rank the variables in a manner consistent with a chosen scenario creation method.

root questions and the AQAL picture of relevant variables can be used as either prompts and/or as a checklist in the creation of the scenario 'story.' This allows for the scenario descriptions or stories to have an Integral nature, in that they include the subjective and objective aspects of realty in both singular and plural forms. The value is in assisting the creation of a more realistic and holistic picture of the scenario to emerge. The evolutionary macro-history nature of AQAL could also inform the construction of any timeline developed to explain, and/or generate signposts of the path to, each scenario.

A later article (still to read) can be found here:

related: integral futures scenario methods

future_fabulators/integral_scenario_development.txt · Last modified: 2014/03/04 07:23 by maja