The paper attempts to model the correlation of action logic stage with sustainability language using IT and CDT. A hybrid research methodology is used that uses a process informed by the theory, and uses data to inform and refine the model which is rechecked against the data. The Sentence Completion Test was used to assess the operative action logic of participants.

However three questions remain somewhat unanswered for me:

a) How does action logic listing with response scripts constitute a model? May be a specific definition of a qualitative model would be useful so expectations are managed better

b) The paper mentions at the outset that Sustainability related action based on empirical data is turning out to be inadequate. While I agree totally with that statement, I fail to see how this research outcome correlates language with action

c) The fact that late action logic people are developmentally mature and carry higher capacities for change is known. What is the extra insight w.r.t sustainability (as opposed to any other field of work) that emerges in the study?

The tagwords 'Integral Sustainability' remind me foremost of Pattern Dynamics more than anything else. It may be useful for the subsequent research project the authors envisage to incorporate pattern languaging (more than verbal languaging) into action logic responses, by way of refining the model that has both descriptive and predictive capacity. 

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Thanks Neelesh, I haven't read this paper yet, so I appreciate the overview. 

Insightful comment in the last paragraph. I know that Barrett Brown's "Integral Sustainability" work has influenced Tim Winton, and I know Brown has had Tim present on PatternDynamics at some of his workshops.  And Tim recently mentioned that he sees Action Logics as at least one methodology that should work well alongside PD. 

I guess that anyone interested in the paper on integral sustainability would also be interested in the article referenced below, which reports on a quite significant empirical study: 

Olivier Boiral, Charles Baron, Olen Gunnlaugson: Environmental Leadership and Consciousness Development: A Case Study Among Canadian SMEs, Journal of Business Ethics, August 2013



The objective of this paper is to explore how the various stages of consciousness development of top managers can influence, in practical terms, their abilities in and commitment to environmental leadership in different types of SMEs. A case study based on 63 interviews carried out in 15 industrial SMEs showed that the organizations that displayed the most environmental management practices were mostly run by managers at a post-conventional stage of consciousness development. Conversely, the SMEs that displayed less sustainable environmental management practices were all run by managers at conventional stages of development. Drawing upon diverse examples of environmental leadership, this paper analyzes the reasons why the stages of post-conventional consciousness development of top managers seem to foster corporate greening in SMEs. The study also sheds light on the key values and abilities associated with both environmental leadership and the upper-stages of consciousness development, which include a broader and systemic perspective, long-range focus, integration of conflicting goals, collaboration with stakeholders, complexity management, collaborative learning, among others.

Ok, so then does just giving AQAL seminars to top management move them into postconventional stages and the greening of their corps? That has been the ideological claim of kennilinguists but is there any empirical data to suggest it is so? Just having a new 'operating system' can lead said managers to just continue their un-environmental (and abusive labor) practices more efficiently. And I have seen multitudes of kennilinguists, including Kennilingam himself, use the AQAL model to support quite metaphysical, formal operations, as has Cook-Greuter in her 2013 ITC presentation. And most significantly, use the model to  support the 'conscious' capitalist meme and rail against environmental activism as some form of deficient 'green' relativism.

To clarify your remark about Cook-Greuter, when you say, "as has Cook-Greuter," you mean she has seen and criticized this, too -- right?  Not that she is doing this, too?

Yes, I mean CG has criticized this too.

Thomas, thank you for the heads up about Boiral, Baron, and Gunnlaugson's paper; it looks interesting.  Do you have a link?  (I've read, and appreciated, a number of Gunnlaugson's other works, and I had the pleasure of meeting him at the recent ITC as well).

Concerning the ITC paper that is the topic of this thread, I've read it a couple times and have sat with it, but find I don't have much of substance to say about it.  I share the same questions about it that Neelesh names.  The paper is short, and its goals are modest -- such that I'd feel more comfortable saying it represents a measured step on the way to a model, rather than presenting a fully realized model.  I had some questions about the text used to exemplify the Individualist stage, since the quote itself didn't seem (to me) to contain the complexity attributed to it.  The authors mention that the quote was extracted from a larger conversation in which the individual was thinking over a long expanse of history, but that is not apparent (to me) in the quote itself -- so perhaps the issue here is just one of the scope or length of the passage excerpted (maybe due to page length restrictions).  The authors name one of the weakeness of the paper at the end, which was one of the primary questions that stood out for me (as something I was wanting to be addressed): the correlation of statements with action logics to effective intervention(s).  Hopefully this will be explored in future papers (and perhaps it was discussed more in the actual conference presentation; I will listen to that later when I have the time).

I can access the article through my university library (as pdf). Send me a note if you have problems getting hold of it:

Balder said:

Thomas, thank you for the heads up about Boiral, Baron, and Gunnlaugson's paper; it looks interesting.  Do you have a link?  

The authors of the paper make action logic stages the centerpiece of the analysis, and it seems to me that the stage descriptions are compilations from earlier work on ego stages by the usual suspects. In his dissertation, Brown separately used the WUSTC to get a ego stage coding, and interviewed the participants on their reasoning about strategies for change work regarding sustainability. Then he looked for stage-typical patterns in the interviews. An alternative strategy would be to make comprehensive interviews and then use a more inductive approach for analyzing developmentally relevant aspects. You could make a thematic analysis, looking for recurring themes and dimensions in the content of the interviews, then, for each theme, look for qualitatively different patterns that arguably represent developmental shifts. There are different developmentally relevant dimensions to look for: complexity of reasoning, levels of abstraction regarding key concepts used, scope of concern, signs of perspective awareness, their own role understanding (how they construct the relationship between themselves and the organizations they work for), dialectical thought forms, etc. 

Such an investigation strategy has greater prospects, I believe, to discover new things, whereas taking for granted that an action logic stage model well represents the nature of developmental trajectories seems to be a quite limiting (if handy) approach. 

I find the ego stage models (in their different variants) useful, but I am wary of tendency to reductionism that seems inherent in the basic assumptions. Loevinger herself was very keen on pointing out that a theory-building process has to have mechanisms for letting the empirical data challenge and modify the theory. 

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