All of our organizations, Job One for Humanity, the Universe Institute, and Universe Spirit all use and strongly recommend learning the new skill of dialectical meta-systemic thinking. We called this new thinking system dialectical meta-systemic thinking because we initially used it to look over and analyze the many complex systems and subsystems interacting within the interconnected processes of evolution and within the climate system.
We found the 28 unique dialectical perspectives perfect for dissecting, analyzing, and seeing order and prediction possibilities within the incredibly dense complexity of the processes of evolution and the climate. Dialectical meta-systemic thinking is also called dialectical thinking by the author of two excellent dialectical thinking books, Otto Laske.
Dialectical meta-systemic thinking is not only for evaluating the very highest levels of human capacity, potentials, and even abilities. For deep analysis and prediction, we have found it to be an invaluable tool well beyond the use of classic logic and systems theory by themselves.
The critical executives, analysts, and lead politicians within the following organizations would be well advised to get trained in this new thinking skill as soon as possible:
The world's governments, the military, national intelligence agencies, national hedge funds, investment banks (like Goldman Sachs,) stock and commodity market executives, the most prominent foundations, think tanks, national and international reserve banks, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, and trans-national mega-corporations.
Dialectical meta-systemic thinking is the critical add-on thinking skill to logic and systems theory for anyone in high-level decision-making and critical analysis, evaluation, or prediction-related positions in today's ever more complex adaptive systems-loaded world. It allows you to "freeze" the essential moments within almost any continually evolving or fixed situation or problem and see it from 28 unique perspectives. Moreover, these 28 unique perspectives can't help but deepen your understanding of the essential factors at play in almost any situation, problem-solving or predictive challenge.
Individuals who have mastered the challenging skills of dialectical meta-systemic thinking have a significantly unfair advantage over those who do not. One could even say that it would be very difficult to aspire to a true genius-level of analysis or prediction without this new thinking still.
More About Dialectical Meta-systemic Thinking
The headline of this article is one that should naturally stimulate healthy doubt.
In the 1600s during the Enlightenment there was a major breakthrough in thinking; rational, logical thought and its accompanying scientific methodology came into being. This allowed for a new way of conceptualizing and managing the world. Even now, 400 years later, we continue to reap the bountiful benefits of that great breakthrough in a new way of thinking. Today we are also on the brink of what might be considered an even greater Second Enlightenment. It is coming into being aided in great part because of a new dialectical meta-systemic thinking process that is far more capable than logic and systems theory by themselves of managing today's personal, economic, and political interacting and evolutionary complex adaptive systems.
With the existing knowledge of the evolutionary theory movement and the new dialectical meta-systemic thinking tools in Otto Laske's book Measuring Hidden Dimensions of Human Systems, we will get there far sooner. Within its pages, readers will find an effective, near-complete overview of the newest super-systemic dialectical thinking processes that may be applied to today's problems and to the interactions of any of the complex systems of our world.
While the rational logical thinking of the first Enlightenment was two-dimensional and linear, with the advent of systems theory we became three-dimensional thinkers. The new dialectical meta-systems thinking elucidated in Laske's book is what I call four-dimensional thinking. (Three dimensions plus time.) It also allows one to deal with unpredictable spontaneities, nonlinear and unknown feedback loops, and a host of other issues that arise with multiple and single dialectically interacting complex systems.
The information in Measuring Hidden Dimensions also shows a person how to step outside of their own thoughts, problems, or issues in order to consider them objectively by using twenty-eight different thought-forms for redirecting attention creating four-dimensional dialectical thinking. The ability to think in a meta whole systems interacting way is clearly a huge advantage in all areas of life and is far more effective in dealing with today's multisystem complex problems. Dialectical meta-systemic thinking is an essential tool in understanding the complexity of the universe's evolutionary processes.
It's no exaggeration to say that Measuring Hidden Dimensions of Human Systems may be the best book yet written about the evolution of cognition and the evolution and development of human thinking in general. While Laske stands on the shoulders of the giants of dialectical thinking like Hegel, Adorno, and Jaques he is a rare genius who has not only explained the development of thought through the seamless integration of multiple perspectives and frameworks, including psychology, science and, indirectly, the mystical core of theology, he has also significantly advanced it. Powerful life and world-rearranging epiphanies by the bucketful await the conscious reader of this 4D revolution in dialectical meta-systemic thinking.
Laske's complex systems dialectical thinking process provides a well thought- out "thinking" agency that is needed for any optimized decision-making process that results in wise action, thus creating the better future we all seek. There is little doubt that someday learning the dialectical meta-systemic thinking skills using Laske's 28 attention-redirecting thought forms will be an educational requirement for all in advanced decisional or predictive positions of any kind!
This book has personally allowed me to integrate a vast amount of observations about my life and my climate science and evolution theory work in less time than I ever imagined possible. It even helped me to evaluate complex personal situations in my life in a whole new way, either saving me untold trouble and cost and more quickly motivating me to take wise risks and seize new opportunities that hold real dialectically- evaluated benefits.
Adoption of this new dialectical meta-systemic thinking system would work wonders for the Evolutionary movement as well. A well-defined and complete evolutionary dialectical meta-systemic thinking system has been until now the main element that has been lacking to effectively resolve the challenges of the multiple complex systems interacting in our world today. Laske's new book provides exactly that missing element. There is little doubt that this work will eventually spread within other progressive social and activist movements as well.
Laske's book is nothing less than a true gift to humanity! In time, he will be eventually recognized as the man who did much to help bring about and forward a second great Enlightenment. As amazing as it is, however, this book also poses a few challenges to its readers.
Although Laske says that anyone can be taught complex systems dialectical thinking, I think that this book is a difficult read for many individuals. Laske's writing style is concept-dense and demands that you pay careful attention to each initial definition that he uses. In one paragraph alone he may take you through a dozen or more interrelated or sequential new thinking conceptual spaces. In addition to the implied high cognitive capacity requirements, there may be social and emotional development requirements that also play a part in one's ability to understand and "get" this amazing new dialectical meta-systemic thinking training manual and tool.
Measuring Hidden Dimensions of Human Systems was written more as an aid to human resources staff and as a training manual for coaches who will use this new kind of thinking to help their clients see the world much differently in order to make far better decisions. That said, anyone with a little extra observational effort will find it useful as a manual for learning the new dialectical meta-systemic thinking processes.
Individuals with a strong background in developmental psychology will be in heaven and probably find the book considerably easier to understand. "Getting" Laske's new book on dialectical meta-systemic thinking will quickly separate the Evolutionary beginners and aficionados from the experts, qualified teachers, and dedicated practitioners.
Whether you're an Evolutioneer, or a corporate, government, or non-profit sector leader, I wholeheartedly recommend that you get this book fast. The news is spreading via word-of-mouth: this book is a must-read for anyone, who believes that optimized thinking processes is the best way to create success in almost any area. This book plus Dialectical Thinking and Adult Development by Michael Basseches hopefully, will find its way into all of the planet's most critical thinking applications where one is dealing with the analysis of multiple complex systems interacting with each other.
Our organization highly recommends learning Dialectical Meta-Systemic thinking skills. It is a complex and advanced service that we have chosen to best leave with its originator, Prof. Otto Laske, and his InterDevelopmental Institute as well as other friends of our organization who are teaching their own variants of this vital skill set.
The above review was written by Lawrence Wollersheim in January 2009
Executive Director at several organizations using dialectical meta-systemic thinking.
Job One for Humanity,
Universe Spirit, and
the Universe Institute.
Important Book Review Update January 25, 2022
Please note: After working with many individuals trying to grasp the need for such seeming complex thinking skills, I have come to realize more needed to be said about the value of Otto Laske's book Measuring Hidden Dimensions of Human Systems Vol 2.
1. Individuals under 27 will not fully grasp these techniques because their brains have not yet developed enough synaptic connections between the neurons in their brains.
2. Individuals need high intellectual bandwidth and capacity to use these thinking skills successfully.
3. Dialectal meta-systemic analysis allows you to take any situation or problem and literally track and predict its actual and potential evolution by viewing its exact moment or situation from 28 highly enlightening perspectives. These are generally little-known perspectives inherent in the dialectical evolutionary process itself. Thinking with these shills means you will see the ongoing evolutionary change that surrounds us all at much higher levels than almost anyone who has not mastered these skills.
Let me expand what I mean here so that more worldwide decision-makers, evaluators, planners, and predictive futurists grasp the value of the thinking breakthroughs in this book. The dialectal meta-systemic analysis method allows one to look at a situation from 28 unique dialectical perspectives relating to the contexts, relationships, processes, and transformations taking place or possible within that situation and its system-related relationships.
A metaphor for the fantastic levels of deep and broad insight and perspectives available for an individual with dialectical meta-systemic thinking skills could be helpful before you start. For example, suppose you are above average intelligence with logical thought processes, and you have not studied complex adaptive systems theory or dialectical meta-systemic thinking.
In that case, you will see the many interacting, interconnected, and interdependent systems such as human, climate, and biological systems at the ancient "computer screen" resolution and clarity of about 480 dots per inch (DPI.) This low intellectual viewing resolution means you will not as quickly see all of the points of no return, crossed critical tipping points, destructive feedback loops, etc. However, if you also understand complex adaptive systems theory, you will see the information below at a much higher 1,200 DPI "computer screen" clarity and resolution.
Understanding logic, complex adaptive systems theory, and dialectal meta-systemic thinking theory will allow you to see information at an astounding 8,000 DPI "computer screen" clarity and resolution. That huge numeric DPI difference gives you an idea of how much better you will be able to see the reality in front of you once you learn dialectal meta-systemic thinking.
The better your "computer screen resolution" and clarity because of the more image dots per inch factor, the more fully and precisely you will see the many details occurring within the interactions, interconnections, interdependencies, points of no return, destructive feedback loops, nonlinear effects, and crossed tipping point interactions, etc. in the evolution of multiple interacting complex systems.
How I (Lawrence Wollersheim) use the dialectical meta systemic thinking skill
My focus in using this new thinking skill is to use it to analyze a situation, crisis, or problem and predict possible solutions or consequences for that situation. I also use this new thinking and analysis skill to:
1. review climate science for both errors and unseen patterns within existing climate research,
2. re-analyise existing authoritative climate consequence predictions, timeframes, and remedies for errors, and
3. review evolutionary science for both errors and unseen patterns within that research.
The first thing I do to start this process is immerse myself totally in all the information from a systems' perspective for what is going on. I make myself fully present to the data with no distractions.
I then re-look at the situation, crisis, or problem from each of the 28 dialectical perspectives. I flow chart out and think as deeply as possible about how each of the 28 dialectical perspectives could be affecting the situation, crisis, or problem or how it might influence its future consequences or outcomes.
After this complete and extensive dialectical immersion in all of the data related to the situation, I then step back and go off and do something completely unrelated to this work. What happens next is quite remarkable.
Spontaneously and without effort, while either awake or sleeping, the target situation and its many dynamics will come back to me in unique, complete epiphanies and cognitions. These sudden epiphanies synthesize the information in new or more holistic ways that I did not see earlier in the process of deep analysis and flowcharting.
When talking with another individual who has also become adept in this new thinking skill, their experience of the process was not dissimilar.
Please take the time to read these other useful reviews of this era-shifting new thinking and analysis process below.
For US Training in Dialectical Meta-Systemic Thinking aka Dialectical Thinking
To explore the on-line training in dialectic thinking offered by Otto Laske at IDM, the Interdevelopmental Institute in Gloucester, MA, USA, it’s best to explore three sections of the IDM website:
- Services, https://interdevelopmentals.org/?page_id=4321
- Publications, https://interdevelopmentals.org/?page_id=1974
- Blogs, https://interdevelopmentals.org/?page_id=4831
Services tells you what you can do right now to learn dialectical thinking.
Publications informs you that there are three book sources for learning dialectical thinking (as well as that dialectical thinking cannot be learned from books but only in small cohorts of like-minded people):
- MHD volume 2, entitled Measuring Hidden Dimensions of Human Systems: Foundations of Requisite Organization (2008; 3rd edition 2021; section C of https://interdevelopmentals.org/?page_id=1974)
- DTFM, Dialectical Thought Form Manual, 2010; 3rd edition 2021; section C ofhttps://interdevelopmentals.org/?page_id=1974
- Dialectical Thinking for Integral Leaders, Integral Publisher 2015, https://www.amazon.com/Dialectical-Thinking-Integral-Leaders-Primer/dp/0990441997
Those who plan to study dialectics at IDM can prepare themselves for joining a cohort by purchasing ‘Gateway self-study’ materials at https://interdevelopmentals.org/?page_id=1974, Section B1 (English) or Section B2 (German & Spanish) for $50. This will help them ‘tune into’ the subject matter taught by Otto in small cohorts of 5-7 participants.
Blogs are a treasure trove of articles by Otto Laske including articles about his most recent thinking. They comprise his writings back to 2000, in a concentrated fashion collected in the ‘Social Science Archive I to VI’ that includes many pertinent articles on dialectical thinking and its applications, especially in organizations.
Right now, the publications listed under (a) and (b) above are out of print and therefore only available in pdf form via Paypal. However, in the Spring of 2022, Wolfgang Pabst, the German science publisher, will bring out a complete reprint of DTFM (in English), as well as of MHD volume 1, subtitled ‘The Art and Science of Fully Engaging Adults’, a refinement of R. Kegan’s social-emotional thinking.
To explore the training in dialectic met-systemic thinking in the UK offered by Victoria Wilding's and Rob Cobbold's 'Higher Mind Initative' see this page. Their website provides details of the training they are providing for evolutionary leaders that is designed to produce higher mind (including metasystemic cognition).
There is also a new and far easier starting-level book on dialectical meta-systemic thinking that Otto Laske wrote called Dialectical Thinking for Integral Leaders, A Primer. It was reviewed here by John Stewart. The review also contains many great insights into the dialectical meta-systemic thinking processes well beyond what is in this article. It is also reviewed here.
What Other Reviewers Are Saying about this New Book
JOHN STEWART REVIEW OF OTTO LASKE'S NEW BOOK
Otto Laske's work is a very significant contribution to the emergence of a new and higher level of cognition amongst humans. This dialectical/systemic cognition will give humanity a much-needed capacity to better understand and manage complex systems and processes.
Laske's book, Measuring Hidden Dimensions of Human Systems, promotes our cognitive development by assisting us to see the limitations of our current levels of thinking. In particular, it helps us to 'stand outside' our analytical/rational thinking and to see it as an object. This enables us to see the limitations of this form of cognition. It assists us to see why analytical/rational thinking fails to adequately represent and understand complex systems and processes. Laske's book then goes on to identify the new forms of thought that are needed to represent and understand those aspects of reality that cannot be adequately represented by analytical/rational thinking.
Analytical/rational thinking is the cognition that spread with the European Enlightenment and now dominates in Western societies. However, it can represent mentally only those limited aspects of reality that are relatively mechanistic. It is incapable of representing complex patterns and processes, non-linearities, transforming systems, emergence, and complex relationships. Cognition that is unable to represent or model something is incapable of understanding or managing it, or even of 'seeing' it.
Dialectical/systemic cognition continues to use analytical/rational cognition for understanding mechanistic aspects of reality. But it also models and represents those many aspects of reality that are more complex and fluid. It represents and models complex patterns, transforming systems, non-linear processes, etc. The use of these representations is experienced as intuitions and insights.
The spread of systemic cognition is of critical importance because:
· Systemic cognition is essential if an individual is to be able to fully understand the large-scale evolutionary processes that have shaped humanity and other life on this planet and that will determine our future. It is, therefore, a pre-condition for fully 'getting' the evolutionary worldview and for experiencing the transformative epiphanies that accompany this;
· The global crises and challenges that are confronting humanity cannot be understood and cannot be solved without a cognitive capacity that enables the management of complex systems and processes. Analytical/rational cognition cannot do this;
· True systemic cognition is currently almost non-existent. Most 'systems thinking' is done with mental/rational representations and cognition. Post-modern cognition ('green' in Spiral Dynamics terms) is incapable of rigorously understanding complex phenomenon, and people at this level are commonly anti-cognitive.
· It seems unlikely that systemic cognition will develop quickly enough to meet global challenges unless it is spread intentionally and consciously.
What is needed is a New Enlightenment. It will be similar to the first Enlightenment in that it will be driven by a shift to higher cognition. But this time the shift will be from the analytical/rational thought of the first enlightenment to systemic cognition. And the shift will be developed and spread intentionally and consciously.
Currently, there are no widely-accepted approaches to training and developing higher mind and systemic cognition. The Integral Movement and spiritual progressives tend to focus on the development of consciousness, not the development of higher cognition. Since these movements are almost universally 'green', cognition tends to be part of their shadow.
Most members of these movements do not have the cognitive development to see that effective responses to global challenges require a higher level of cognition, not just higher consciousness. The failure of the Integral Movement and spiritual progressives to make any significant contribution to resolving major crises such as global warming is due to their cognitive limitations. The 'missing piece' that is limiting these movements is systemic cognition.
As outlined in his book, Otto Laske has developed courses and supporting materials aimed at training and developing systemic cognition. The book includes an extraordinarily valuable Manual of Dialectical Thought Forms that builds on the work of Michael Basseches and others.
The Manual identifies the classes of things that we have to represent in our thinking if we are to adequately represent and understand complex phenomena and processes. It shows us the things that analytical/rational thought is unable to represent and understand effectively. It identifies the sorts of processes to which we must direct our attention if we are to build adequate mental models of complex systems.
Although Laske's work shows us where we have to direct our attention to think dialectically and systemically, it does not include practices that train the ability to freely move attention to where it is required. It is here that the 'consciousness movement' can contribute significantly to programs that aim to train and transmit dialectical/systemic cognition.
More specifically, the development of higher mind can be greatly accelerated by the use of the kinds of practices promoted by the world's spiritual and contemplative traditions that develop consciousness. These practices train the capacity to dis-embed from lower forms of cognition, freeing attention and consciousness to access and build higher cognitive structures.
Together with Victoria Wilding of Symplicitus ( http://symplicitus.com /), I have been working on the development of an approach to training higher cognition that synthesizes Laske's approach with practices appropriated from the spiritual traditions. These 'spiritual' practices train the ability to:
· Dis-embed from analytical/rational thinking;
· See analytical/rational thought 'from the outside' as an object that can be contemplated and evaluated
. Eventually, this enables systemic cognition itself to be seen as an object that can be contemplated, evaluated, and improved;
· Gain conscious and intentional control over attention so that it can be moved freely around the aspects of complex phenomena that are not represented effectively by analytical/rational thinking; and
· Access and develop non-thought-based cognitive resources, including pattern recognition capacities and intuition.
These capacities enable the individual to identify the critical aspects of complex phenomenon that are not represented adequately by analytical/rational thought. It also enables them to build new cognitive representations that include what is left out by analytical thinking. This makes possible the construction of new mental models that are not solely thought-based and that can adequately represent complex systems and phenomena as they evolve and transform through time.
John Stewart, July 201
We also strongly recommend this amazing and detailed review of Otto Laske's more simple book on dialectical meta-systemic thinking processes called Dialectical Thinking for Integral Leaders, A Primer. It was reviewed here by John Stewart. This review also contains many great insights into the dialectical meta-systemic thinking processes well beyond what is in this article.
John Stewart reviews Laske on Dialectical Thinking
Book Reviews / August-November 2016 John Stewart Otto Laske, Dialectical Thinking for Integral Leaders: A Primer. Tucson: Integral Publishers, 2015.
Gregory Bateson famously said: “The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between how nature works and the way people think.” This statement of Bateson’s identifies a serious issue for humanity.
If our thinking does not enable us to build effective mental models of reality, we will be unable to understand the causes of the environmental and other crises that are threatening human civilization. More importantly, our mental models will be of little use for developing strategies to resolve these crises. Without an appropriate match between the complexity of our thinking and the complexity of the world, leaders in government and in business will fail to meet the complex challenges that face them every day in their work. It is no exaggeration to acknowledge that the future of human civilization depends on the development by humanity of thinking that better reflects how nature and the rest of the world work.
Increasingly people are becoming aware of the causes of this mismatch between current thinking and important aspects of reality. They are seeing that it is due to the serious limitations of the linear, rational, analytical thinking. It is true that this kind of thinking has powered industrialization and science over the past three hundred years. Science and technology has demonstrated an astounding ability to enable us to manipulate and rearrange parts of the world for our own ends. But it is becoming clear that this ability is limited to only a small proportion of reality and nature. This thinking enables us to understand and manipulate only those aspects of reality that are mechanistic and relatively simple. Unfortunately, most of the natural world is not simple and analysable. As a consequence, mental models built with analytical, rational thinking cannot adequately reflect most of reality, the majority of which is complex and ceaselessly changing.
Consistent with these limitations, science has been very poor at understanding our complex social and economic systems and enabling us to manage them effectively. Scientific psychology has provided only simple and trivial insights into how our minds actually work. And the mismatch between linear, scientific thinking and the complex ecosystems that constitute our natural environment is threatening our existence: scientific ecology has proven unable to understand and predict the complex impacts of our actions on the natural world.
The stark mismatch between our thinking and much of reality is perhaps seen most easily when we compare our natural environment with those parts of reality that are built by our current thinking. Humans can design only things that are understandable to our thinking. As a result, things built by humans look nothing like the complex, ever-changing processes we find in nature. If we walk through a modern human city we will be surrounded by buildings with features that are very rare in nature: straight lines, smooth surfaces, and rectangular shapes. We will also see machines that are made of parts that interact linearly with each other in highly constrained and predictable ways, and technologies that can be ‘thought through’ with logical, analytical thinking. What we find in a city is nothing like what we will see in a walk through a typical forest. There is very little in the complex, buzzing confusion that will surround us in such a walk that is understandable with analytical, rational thinking. What we see in a typical forest certainly could never be mistaken to be a product of human engineering.
What can we do about the mismatch identified by Bateson? Are humans capable of developing new patterns of thinking that match the ceaselessly changing, interpenetrating systems we find in the real world? Can we develop mental models that are capable of guiding our societies to form sustainable relationships with the natural environment on which they depend? Can the thinking of the human mind match the complexity of our societies and economic systems? Can it therefore enable leaders in government and business to generate strategies that enable them to succeed in the complex and challenging circumstances they face continually?
If so, can this new level of thinking be taught? Can the mental processes, movements-in-though, shifts in attention and other skills that constitute this new thinking be transmitted between individuals? If so, how can it be spread quickly enough, particularly amongst our leaders? Will it enable humanity to win its dangerous race between ‘the getting of wisdom’ and the destruction of our environment and our societies?
These issues were at the back of my mind for many years after I had read the work of Gregory Bateson and other systems thinkers. My reading and thinking had primed me to be continually on the lookout for answers to these questions. But for many years I did not come across any research or practices that pointed even remotely to a way forward. Then I read a book review by Sara Nora Ross in the June 2009 issue of the Integral Leadership Review. It was a review of Otto Laske’s Manual of Dialectical Thought Forms. Reading the review produced a visceral reaction in me. My fingers and toes actually tingled with excitement. Had someone done it? Had they produced a manual for the kind of meta-systemic thinking that Einstein is reputed to have implied is needed to correct the crises caused by analytical, rational thinking? If so, it was a major contribution to what was needed to avoid the collapse of human civilization this century.
I immediately ordered a copy of the book that contains the Manual of Dialectical Thought Forms. The 175 page Manual is actually a part of Laske’s larger 668 page book Measuring Hidden Dimensions of Human Systems: Foundations of Requisite Organization, Volume 2 (IDM Press, ISBN 978-09776800-6-1). I quickly found (somewhat to my surprise) that the Manual delivers on its promises. It actually does systematically describe the kinds of mental movements-in-thought and related mental processes that constitute the capacity to build useful mental models of complex reality as it transforms through time.
I spent much of the next six months working through Laske’s book. My goal was to build the kinds of mental processes that generated the book and that embody the methods of thinking identified in the Manual. I was not starting with a blank slate. I had spent most of my intellectual life developing mental models of complex, large-scale evolutionary processes. These included models of the evolution of cooperative organization at all levels from molecular processes to human societies. But Laske’s book was invaluable for enabling me to begin to see the actual mental processes that constituted my complex thinking, to identify blind spots and other limitations in my thinking, and then to correct them.
Since then, I have recommended Laske’s book without hesitation to people interested in higher thinking. It is unique. But it is not an ideal vehicle to introduce people to dialectical thinking. At nearly 700 densely packed pages, it is too long, detailed and daunting for the average educated and intelligent reader. The book is immensely important – humanity urgently needs to develop thinking that can deal with complexity. But to kick-start this development, a shorter introduction to the acquisition of dialectical thinking is essential. In response to this need, Laske how now produced the book which is the subject of this review: Dialectical Thinking for Integral Leaders: A Primer.
The Primer is a concise and stimulating introduction to the power of dialectical thinking and to its acquisition. First the book demonstrates the need for dialectical thinking by identifying the limitations of analytical, rational thinking. Analytical, rational thinking is narrow and limited because it can only model (and therefore understand) simple systems. In order to find parts of the world which are simple enough for it to model, analytical thinking generally has to focus down on particular isolated phenomena, and ignore the complex, multi-layered context in which all phenomena are embedded. It then has to attempt to represent the phenomena by building a simple, mechanistic, reductionist model that linear thought is capable of ‘thinking through’ and tracking.
With such an approach, rational thinking can work only where (a) the complex context in which phenomena are embedded has little or no influence on how the phenomena unfolds and can therefore be safely ignored; (b) phenomena can be approximated as being comprised of objects and parts that don’t change through time and that have fixed attributes – i. e. where the fact that all ‘objects’ are processes that are changing ceaselessly can be ignored; and (c) the interactions and relationships between the parts can be treated as if they are mechanistic, rather than as comprising complex, co-evolving interrelationships that constitute larger processes and systems.
If all these conditions are met, rational thinking can be used to build a mental model that will enable reasonably accurate predictions about the phenomena it is focusing on. However these conditions are rarely met, hence the limitations of reductionist, mechanistic thinking. In the limited circumstances where these conditions are met at least approximately, science is king. Where they aren’t, current science tends to criticize attempts to make sense of phenomena as unscientific, but contributes very little to understanding them. In most areas of interest to human beings (e.g. the complex functioning of our societies, our psychology and our interpersonal relationships), current science is relegated to the status of a carping, irrelevant bystander.
However, the Primer shows how this understanding of the limitations of analytical, rational thinking enables us to identify what it fails to represent adequately in its models. More importantly, it shows us what higher-level thinking has to include if it is to develop better models of complex reality. It enables us to see the other aspects of reality that we have to give attention to if our thinking is to match complex phenomena.
The Primer does this by describing four classes of ‘thought forms’ that constitute dialectical thinking. Laske refers to these classes as the four ‘moments of dialectic’. They identify what dialectical thinkers need to include if they are to build useful mental models of complex phenomena. Each moment of dialectic in turn comprises three thought forms which summarize the seven thought forms that are described in detail in the Manual and that are set out in Appendix C of the Primer.
The four moments of dialectic are:
- Context: This class of thought forms reminds us that our models should reflect the multi-layered contexts in which all phenomena are embedded.
- Process: This class guides our thinking to recognise that all aspects of reality are ceaselessly changing. In reality, there is no such thing as an object with fixed attributes. There are only processes.
- Relationship: These thought forms direct our attention to the complex interrelationships between the processes that comprise most phenomena, including their coevolution as part of larger processes and systems.
- Transformation: This class of thought forms guides us to integrate our use of the Context, Process and Relationship thought forms to represent the fact that reality comprises interpenetrating, coevolving, complex systems-in-transformation.
Laske shows how these four moments of dialectic and associated thought forms can be used to scaffold thought processes that can match the complexity of reality. An individual can use the moments of dialectic (and thought forms) to guide their attention to take account of those parts of reality that are inadequately modelled by analytical, rational thinking.
Of course, this is a lot easier said than done. A key difficulty is that it requires awareness of one’s own thought processes. Individuals need to be able to see how their current thought processes operate and then use the moments and thought forms to identify and correct any inadequacies. But very few people yet have the capacity to stand outside their thinking and treat it as object in this way. Some forms of meditation have the potential to develop this capacity. However, at present they are used more often to create desirable internal states and feelings, not to improve thinking capacities.
Laske has developed and delivered sophisticated approaches that can overcome this challenge. He has established an organization (the Interdevelopmental Institute) that offers training programs in dialectical thinking. These programs scaffold the development by students of the ability see their own thinking through the lens of the moments and thought forms. They do this by taking students through an intermediate step that is easier to achieve and which in turn makes it easier to stand outside one’s own thinking and evaluate it. This first step trains students to assess the thinking of others using Laske’s framework. Students are required to interview another person and to listen carefully to the interviewee’s responses. In real time as the interview proceeds, students then use the thought form framework to identify which forms are being used and which are underdeveloped or absent. In its most developed form, the student interviews the other person systematically to build up a comprehensive picture of their mental operations in the context of the thought form framework. As well as facilitating the development of dialectical thinking in the student, this ability to assess the level of thinking of others is also extremely valuable for coaches, consultants and team leaders, as discussed further below.
This teaching strategy makes use of the fact that is much easier to learn to evaluate the thought processes of another. But mastering this also greatly facilitates the student’s ability to see their own thinking as object through the lens of the framework.
It is more difficult to incorporate this kind of staged learning process in a book. But the Primer also seems to make use of this kind of approach. It gives detailed examples of the thinking of individuals and teams, and illustrates how the thought form framework can be applied to them. In order to follow and understand this material, the reader has to attempt to treat the thinking of others as object using the lens of the moments and thought forms. The Primer builds on and deepens this learning experience by setting exercises for readers that invite them to apply the thought form framework in a variety of circumstances where it is particularly powerful.
Furthermore, the Primer focuses its exercise and applications on scenarios that commonly arise in corporations and other business organizations. This is despite the fact that dialectical thinking can be profitably used in all areas of human existence, including family relations, politics, social issues, environmental challenges, economic crises, and so on. This focus on business applications is a particular strength of the Primer, given that the use by business of dialectical thinking will be essential if it is to spread across humanity quickly enough. Any innovation that provides a competitive edge for business will rapidly attract interest, resources and funding. For all its failings, our economic system can be very effective at finding and amplifying innovations that assist corporations and other businesses to achieve their goals. And it is increasingly clear that dialectical thinking can provide a strong competitive advantage: the business conditions encountered by senior executives in major corporations are already demanding that they develop effective mental models of their complex, ever-changing business environments. Very few executives can yet meet these demands. Nearly all are floundering and failing. They are flying by the seats of their pants and pretending that they know what they are doing. In these circumstances, once some businesses discover that their executives can be trained and coached in complex thinking, their competitors will have to quickly follow suit or be left behind. In this way our economic system can drive the spread of the new level of thinking that is needed to overcome the problems that the economic system has helped create and has often exacerbated.
It is worth noting here that it was the emergence of our market-based economic system that previously drove the spread of analytical, rational thinking. Despite its limitations in dealing with complexity, analytical thinking is far superior to the less structured, associative thinking that preceded it. However, analytical, rational thinking was of little use to the overwhelming majority of humans in the middle ages who were members of feudal and other social systems that seriously limited their freedom. These social arrangements prescribed in detail how they should live all aspects of their life. Innovations often broke existing rules. As a result, the use of rational thought to come up with more efficient practices could be very dangerous. It was only with the rise of markets, merchants, trade and mercantilism that life conditions provided clear advantages for analytical, rational thinking and planning. Merchants who could use analytical, rational thinking to construct mental models of business opportunities reaped great financial rewards. And they helped create an environment in which others had to develop the capacity also if they were to survive in business. The culmination of this self-reinforcing process is that we now live in societies where analytical, rational thinking is often a minimum requirement to acquire and hold a relatively well-paid job. If complex human civilization survives long enough, the capacity to use dialectical thinking is also likely to often become a minimum requirement for successful participation in our economic and political systems.
Once dialectical thinking proves its unique value to business, all MBA courses will have to provide training in it. Coaching in dialectical thinking will become commonplace. The Primer will provide invaluable introductory material for these courses and for coaching. Consistent with this, the Primer focuses on a number of key business applications. Each of these applications will provide a unique competitive edge for any business that takes advantage of them. The business applications include:
- The training of dialectical thinking in executives whose work demands it, but who currently have little capacity to think dialectically.
- In the case of those executives who have developed some intuitive capacity to deal with the complexity that faces their business, the Laske framework can be used to significantly improve their thinking capacities. It can enable them to become conscious for the first time of the mental processes that constitute their intuitive capacities, to use the thought forms to identify any limitations in their intuitive approach, and to correct these comprehensively.
- Laske has developed a structured, formal process for assessing in detail the dialectical thinking capacity of individuals across the four moments of dialectic. This is invaluable in recruitment for ensuring that prospective employees are capable of developing the complexity of thought demanded by their jobs and careers. It also enables the design of individualized developmental programs that are tailored to the particular needs of each employee.
- The Primer provides tools and insights for executives and coaches who wish to scaffold higher thinking processes in others. In particular, Laske shows how to use the thought forms to generate ‘mind openers’. These are questions put to others that invite them to move their attention to areas that are currently absent from their thinking. If done well, this produces ‘aha’ moments for individuals, enabling them to ‘see’ and take account of phenomena that are highly relevant but which they ignored previously. In effect, the appropriate and skilful use of mind openers can scaffold an individual to think temporarily at a level of complexity that is well above their current level, as if they had the same abilities as their facilitator. These skills are obviously invaluable for coaches and facilitators. They are also essential for any executive or consultant who needs to persuade others with lesser thinking capacities to buy into complex strategies that would otherwise be ‘over their heads’. In the absence of such a capacity to scaffold others to see what the dialectical thinker can see, a person capable of complex thought can end up being isolated, marginalized and relatively ineffectual in a modern corporation.
- Finally, the Primer focuses on applying Laske’s framework to the leadership of teams. The capacity to lead teams effectively is critical in a modern business. Almost nothing can be achieved alone. Nearly every valuable goal requires the coordinated efforts of multi-skilled teams. Laske rightly gives significant attention in the Primer to the use of his dialectical approach to lead teams effectively.
Often this requires the skilful use of a combination of the tools and approaches I have sketched above. They need to be used to meet a fundamental challenge facing any team leader: team members are likely to operate with different levels of thinking. As a consequence, team members will interpret differently the nature of the organization they work in and its goals and possibilities. They will inhabit different worlds. If leaders are to maximize the performance of their team, ideally they need to know the particular way in which each team member models their work circumstances through time. They need to understand how each member ‘does the world’. Ideally, the team leader needs to use this understanding of the capacities of each team member to temporarily scaffold their thinking to the level required, insofar as this is feasible. Where this is not possible, the leader needs to create an environment which manages the risks and downsides of any unavoidable shortfalls in levels of thinking.
A corporation that contains team leaders and members that have been trained in Laske’s approaches can be far more effective than competitors that do not.
Laske’s Primer outlines the enormous advantages to business and to individuals that can flow from the acquisition of dialectical thinking. However, dialectical thinking must overcome a number of sources of resistance if it is to spread widely:
- As is the case at any level of development, individuals at the analytical, rational level cannot see the limitation of their current thinking. For them, their thinking takes into account everything that they think is relevant. Because they cannot form mental models of what is absent from their thinking, they cannot ‘see’ mentally what is left out. They are like a dog that ‘thinks’ it is invisible to its owner when it puts its head under a couch. Because the dog is a ‘slave’ to its visual field, it is unable to mentally model what is going on outside its visual field. As a result it cannot ‘see’ mentally that it is in full view of its owner, and it cannot ‘see’ that its inability to ‘see’ this is a limitation in its ability to model reality.
- Mainstream science would claim it already takes into account the four moments of dialectic. It can point to where science explicitly deals with different contexts, processes, relationships and systems-in-transformation. A number of science textbooks are entirely devoted to understanding systems and related phenomena in a diversity of fields. However, on closer examination it is evident that the attempts made by mainstream science to deal with complex systems have largely been limited to developing analytical, rational models of them. These systems textbooks are filled with linear, reductionist, mechanical diagrams and models of systems. What passes for systems thinking in mainstream science is rarely dialectical thinking. Nearly always it is merely analytical, rational thinking about systems and processes. And analytical, rational models of systems-in-transformation are inadequate and unable to provide a comprehensive understanding of complex phenomena. Hence the undeniable fact that mainstream science has failed to make significant contributions to our understanding of the complex phenomena dealt with by the humanities and social ‘sciences’.
- Some people who are introduced to dialectical thinking conclude that they already have this capacity to a high degree. When their attention is drawn to the moments of dialectic and the thought forms, they suggest that these are already reflected in their thinking. This position is particularly common amongst people who see some of the limitations of reductionist, linear, rational thinking, and who consider they have moved on from it. They consider they now take a more holistic perspective, and see that ‘everything is connected to everything else’. However, it is one thing to see that everything is connected. It is another thing entirely to see the particular ways in which things are connected, their particular inter-relationships and the particular ways in which the systems they constitute are organized and transform through time. It is this detailed mental modelling of systems-in-transformation that is essential if the thinker is to be able to see how complex phenomena will unfold and how they can be managed and influenced to produce particular outcomes. Seeing that everything is connected but failing to see the detailed consequences of the particular forms of connectedness that exist in the world will just get humanity into a bigger mess. The ultimate test of whether a person is thinking dialectically is whether they can in fact build complex mental models that equip them to understand and manage complex phenomenon in the real world. In my experience, very few people have yet developed this capacity to a high degree.
- It requires an enormous effort to develop oneself vertically in any domain, even if the development is supported by social scaffolding and if life conditions demand and reward it. Like other aspects of vertical development, the acquisition of dialectical thinking requires new capacities and skills, not just new knowledge. It cannot be acquired merely by reading words in a book, just as a person cannot learn to ride a bicycle by reading a manual. The individual has to undergo experiences and processes that reorganize their mind. A large part of this involves working internally on their own mental processes and movements-in-thought. Readers may understand everything in the Primer and be able to pass a detailed exam on its contents. But they will not be able to think dialectically until they have developed the mental processes and models that were used to generate the Primer. Fortunately the Primer is designed and structured to help the reader to do this.
For these reasons we can expect the take-off of dialectical thinking to be slow. But it is likely that these sources of resistance will be swept aside eventually as the enormous benefits of dialectical thinking are demonstrated in practice. Otto Laske’s work in general, and his Primer more specifically, are major contributions to the great step forward in human evolution that will occur with the spread of dialectical thinking.
About the Author
John Stewart is an Australian-based member of the Evolution, Complexity and Cognition (ECCO) research group of the Free University of Brussels. His main interest is the development of an evolutionary worldview that helps us understand who we are and what we should be doing with our lives. Much of his work on the directionality of evolution and its implications for humanity has been published in key papers in international science journals. A number of his recent papers have focused on psychological development, including the future evolution of consciousness. He is the author of the internationally acclaimed book ‘Evolution’s Arrow: the direction of evolution and the future of humanity’. More recently he has finalized The Evolutionary Manifesto which outlines an evolutionary worldview and explores its relevance to humanity. His work on the development and spread of higher levels of thinking (including co-organizing the First Planning Meeting for the Second Enlightenment) is outlined here.
Sara Nora Ross, Ph.D. book review of Otto Laske, Dialectical Thinking for Integral Leaders: A Primer.
"I highly recommend Dr. Laske's work for integral theorists and practitioners. His research represents a truly integrative approach to a number of key aspects of human development and transformation. He has a great grounding in Kegan's subject-object theory as well as the powerful European tradition of dialectics. This book is dense but it is worth the effort." Sean Esbjorn-Hargens Ph.D., Executive Editor of the Journal of Integral Theory and Practice.
At the bottom of this page, I've included links to two other independent reviews of Measuring Hidden Dimensions of Human Systems so that you might see from other perspectives how important this book is to the future of the Integral/Evolutionary movements. The first is a brief review by John Stewart that has just been completed and has not been published previously. The review begins by identifying the reasons why Laske's work is highly significant. It then focuses on how Laske's approach can be greatly enhanced by integrating it with some of the methods for developing consciousness that can be found in the world's spiritual and religious traditions. John is one of the founders of the Progressive Evolution Movement and he is the author of Evolution's Arrow and the Evolutionary Manifesto, both of which are essential reading for the more informed members of the Integral/Evolutionary Movements.
The second review linked below John's is written by Sara Nora Ross, Ph.D, president of ARINA, publisher of The Integral Process for Working on Complex Issues and of the journal Integral Review: A Transdisciplinary and Transcultural Journal for New Thought, Research, and Praxis.
Sara Nora Ross's Review of Laske's book
Sara Nora Ross's review on Laske's book is found at: http://www.archive-ilr.com/archives-2009/2009-06/2009-06-review-laske.php
New Book Review 9.30.22
The New Metathinking Book is Perfect for Teaching the General Public Metathinking Skills
We have just reviewed a new book, Metathinking, The Art and Practice of Transformational Thinking, by Nick Shannon and Bruno Frischherz.
We have long been promoters of the skills of dialectical meta-systemic thinking (meta-thinking.) We use it extensively for our climate research at Job One for Humanity and the Universe Institute.
We are happy to announce that there is now a new book that teaches dialectical meta-thinking at a level that will work well for business and general use. Until the release of this book, there was no easy-to-use and understand book that would introduce individuals to the multi-perspective power of dialectical metathinking. As such, this new book greatly serves the world because meta-thinking skills are essential to success in our highly complex world.
This Metathinking new book is much different from the seminal text on advanced dialectical meta systemic thinking by Otto Laske, Hidden Dimensions of Human Systems Vol 2. While Otto Laske's book has the essential dialectical meta-systemic thinking depth for advanced researchers and analysts, it can be overwhelming for most individuals without profound research and analysis backgrounds and significant previous understanding of advanced dialectical concepts.
The new metathinking book contains easy-to-understand definitions, examples, and exercises. We found the exercises particularly enlightening and helpful for individuals who will be new to these types of advanced and complex thinking processes. Moreover, its many exercises will help the reader use Metathinking processes in their business and personal life soon and fluently.
Hopefully, this book will be a bridge into the general society and help many more people develop and use the skills of dialectical metathinking. We (and the authors also believe) that if more people were proficient in dialectical metathinking, our world would be far better able to solve its current complex problems much easier and faster.
This book opens the door to the mass training of individuals on metathinking, as such is essential to our future.
Metathinking allows more individuals to become aware of their thinking processes beyond logical thinking and develop them to the next level. It also provides a broader bridge and the critical process for far more people to establish metathinking skills. We wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone wanting to take their thinking skills to the next level.
Nick Shannon and Bruno Frischherz can be contacted through the website www.metathinking.org
Here is another published article on the role and improtance of this new dialectical thinking in relationship to evolution issues
Click here to see this new article called Enlightenment and the Evolution of the Material World.
To order the books discussed in this article
To order either of the two dialectical meta-systemic thinking books described in this article, click on their images and it will take you to Amazon and that book.