Developmental Friendships in ART with Bill Torbert and Jean Hartmann.

What is the role of friendship in ART?  Bill Torbert hosted a preGathering conversation which Jean Hartmann illustrates in the delightful video snippet. 

Bill shares: “So far I’ve learned most about whatever I think and feel about developmental friendships from the book Hilary Bradbury and I wrote, Eros/Power: Love in the Spirit of Inquiry (Integral Publishers). It is anchored in reflections about our 25 year friendship and written in the form of an ongoing conversation between us.

From an adult developmental point of view, a developmental friendship ideally cultivates the following five qualities:

1) the incipient friends engage in a shared activity or quest that in some sense concerns the meaning of life and death and encouraging one another’s development;
2) the friends share trust-building and mutuality-enhancing self- disclosure, support, and confrontation;
3) the developing friends offer one another double- and triple-loop feedback, requiring post-cognitive ‘presence in the present ‘ and willingness to risk talking vulnerably about present feelings;
4) the friends generate non-possessive, erotic/spiritual (but not necessarily sexual) intimacy (the non-possessive element of the relationship leaves room for other close relationships, but the erotic excitement of the relationship can generate jealousy in one’s other, more possessive friends);
5) whatever the initial hierarchical and time-limited definition of the relationship, the friends gradually evolve a joint commitment toward a peer and life-arc friendship (though this may be interrupted by changes in activity and location, or by developmental disequilibrium).

Although only very few developmental friendships are directly informed by adult developmental theory, this theory is particularly relevant because it clarifies what counts as a double-loop transformational change and how to measure it (e.g using the Global Leadership Profile). According to adult developmental theory (e.g. Kegan, Torbert, Wilber), we (and our projects, organizations and sciences) can transform developmentally through different action-logics throughout our lifetimes, both as individuals and as members of relationships — from

  • Opportunistic relationships where each is seeking their self-interest, to
  • Diplomatic relationships where each is seeking to maintain group norms and others’ affection, while improving his position in a status hierarchy, to
  • Expert relationships where each is seeking to contribute knowledgeably to a project (e.g. creating a computer program), and relative craft mastership is the basis for hierarchical status, to
  • Productive relationships where each is concerned to play their part in coordinating team performance to move a product or service from conception to market (or other outcome-space), welcoming single-loop feedback that changes performance and improves outcomes.

None of the foregoing action-logics or relationships is intentionally developmental in nature.

Only the later action-logics and relationships become increasingly developmental in intent and effect:

  • Redefining relationships where each seeks to discover their particular passion/vision/purpose, as well as that of the other and of the relational process, to
  • Transforming relationships where each intentionally supports their own, others’, and the organization’s double-loop development through the foregoing action-logics and whenever ‘talk’ is incongruent with ‘walk’, to
  • Alchemical relationships where, in addition to interweaving all the foregoing concerns and capacities in timely action, each offers and receives triple-loop feedback that is based on intuitive, post- cognitive awareness.

Of course, many two-person relationships are not between persons at the same developmental stage of action-logic at the outset. Traditionally, more senior teacher/mentors take an interest in the development of someone more junior. Hypothetically, such a relationship could evolve into a peer developmental friendship, but in actuality it can be difficult for the senior member to embrace the junior member’s increasing independence and contestation, and/or it can be difficult for the junior member to act in ways that escape the safe embrace of the elder. Also, a developmental friendship can evolve across sexual polarity, but in practice non-possessiveness can be more difficult to achieve in such cases.

In the Collaborative Developmental Action Inquiry (CDAI) paradigm of social science, which interweaves first-, second-, and third-person research practice, developmental friendship or “community of inquiry” can be the most profound type of second-person action inquiry in a research/practice project.”

Bill’s new book, “Numbskull in the Theatre of Inquiry” shares a rich picture of his development of Collaborative Developmental Action Inquiry and the numerous developmental friendships involved.  It’s on the AR+ Book Club list. We’ll schedule a zoominar to better introduce it. Stay tuned! For now you may find it here: Paperback:; Ebook:

“Numbskull is a memoir of Torbert’s life of discovering and enacting a future-changing theory and practice of leadership development, organization development, and scientific development. This highly readable book illustrates a new kind of social action and social science where the researcher/activists include themselves in the study and explore to what degree all the different participants are, or are not, exercising timely and mutually-transforming action. Integrating leadership, consulting, teaching, and research, Torbert has won numerous awards for his work, which he now shows us from the inside out.”