ARTists Transforming Action Logic

Developmental Organizational Leadership & Collaborative Education: verticality unbound
Adult Vertical Maturity Development – a non linear spiral


Most psychologists within the field of adult development or psychological maturity aka. vertical development seem to agree: What differentiates people’s ability to make a positive difference is not philosophy, personality, or style of management. Rather, it’s internal “action logic.” This refers to patterns of sensegiving and meaning-making. These patterns are most evident in how we interpret our surroundings and respond when our power or safety is challenged.

It turns out that key in developing more capacity for making a positive difference is to integrate personal, interpersonal and impersonal, awareness.  This combination of subjectivity and objectivity is also known in action research circles as first, second and third person action research/practice.

Some key names in the field of constructivist adult development (aka psychological maturation) include Jane Loevinger known for her empirical approach & more recently Robert Kegan, a psychologist at Harvard. This document offers  an overview by leadership and talent consultants of the current field of vertical adult development and its relationship with complexity including its history and main theorists, its measurement and impact on leadership. An additional helpful on-ramp may be the conversation between  Ken Wilber and Bob Kegan or perhaps the shorter transcript of an interview by Hilary Bradbury with Tomas Bjorkman who speaks of adult development as a necessary updating our social software. 

To put the important insights of adult development succinctly:  it appears that our capacity to integrate what we hold in awareness  at any given time – about “me,” “you,” “it/external world” – equals our “action logic.” Action logic is Bill Torbert’s term. It’s a term that brings action and inquiry together so we understand that action is the constructive productive outcome of inquiry.  The more integrated my attention, the more mature my psychological maturity.  Does maturity mean being “better”?  Maybe, maybe not.  But it does correlates pretty highly with being effective in a chosen arena.  Developmental action logic is therefore pretty helpful for understanding transformation. In growing our capacity to focus not just on myself, or on you or on the external world, but instead, to combine these awarenesses grows my capacity as an agent of transformation. As Action oriented Research for Transformations (ART) is all about, um, transformation, the capacity for integrating attention to me, you, it (e.g., to become more objective about our subjectivity) becomes central.

Too few of us try to understand our action logic, and fewer still have explored the possibility of developing it. And for the sake of ART, this is something worth engaging with. Action researchers who undertake this voyage of personal understanding and development can transform their own capabilities. And also those of the organizations and institutions they’re part of. We know empirically that they can reliably generate organizational and personal transformation. They do this by practicing inquiry and vulnerability which manifests in mutuality. This has a direct impact on how  power is used.  Unfortunately such leaders are still too few.  Those who consciously practice with self development and a wider repertoire of power that includes mutuality appear in global assessments to number less than 10% in the average professional population. Can it become a higher percentage among ARTists? 

Based on studies from around the world by Susanne Cook Greuter,  Harthill and Global Leadership Associates, we know that the action logic of the majority of professionals is “achiever.” As the name suggests, achievers work hard and are results oriented. Achievers efficiently maintain the status quo.  Bill Torbert helps make sense of this – in dialogue with colleagues, including yours truly, in a series of webinars based on stories from his own life. Some of these insights are central to developmental coaching.

I hope we can agree, that at a time of increasing social complexity, climate disruption and social inequality, things need transforming. Not simply change, but transformation – which means inquiry into the systems that inhibit wellbeing and proactivity to move toward a positive future. And our own contribution to keeping and transforming these current systems.  Transformation across systems sums to the evolution of civilization, away from doom! At AR+ we sense it’s time to think more about this and to link ART practice to supporting transformation wherever we are welcome.

Compelling examples already exist.

Action research is full of examples of transformation. In the ART video you see a handful:

See also the cases described in the AR+ Cookbook

Or follow an exciting experiment (started March 2022) in the Basque region of Spain led by Orkestra, an action researching think tank dedicated to territorial development. In it sustainable development and personal development are not kept separate.

Now here’s the challenge…and why we care about it at AR+

The world has too few strategic transformers, in healthcare, in education, in international development, in…you name it.

Even worse, we have too little understanding of how to develop these inclusive capacities.  Yet action oriented research for transformations (ART) requires more.

Learn more:

Developmental reflexivity as a practice for ART and ARTists:

Vertical Development:

Check out AR+ blogs and  coLABs

Take action:

We want all ARTists to step to their developmental edge.  If you fear you might fall –  you have peer support.Don’t worry – be happy!

Consider joining one of the AR+  coLABs or collogues

Reach out for mentoring-partnership with a senior practitioner: