Hands-on Approaches

The concept of Cultural Maturity emphasizes the importance of our multiple intelligences for understanding culturally mature perspective. It makes clear that our rationality—the part of ourselves we usually associate with theory and thinking—alone can never quite do the trick.  Culturally mature understanding in the end requires the whole of intelligence’s creative complexity, the whole of ourselves as cognitive systems.

Given this, it should not be surprising that hands-on approaches, rather than just discussion, often provide the most direct route to culturally mature understanding.  Below are a few approaches that I find particularly useful.

A Stretching Exercise:  This first is simply a set of  questions that I often use when first bringing a group together to look toward the future and engage the tasks of Cultural Maturity. It is not formally a hands-on technique in the sense of directly involving multiple intelligences. But answering the questions usefully requires more than just conventional thought.

(Click here for stretching exercise questions.)

The Wagon Wheel:  When working with groups wanting to address the future of their particular domain, I often have people start by making a list of their realms defining polarities.  Some examples:

Teacher/studentRight answer/wrong answer


School/not school



Health Care


Personal health/environmental health

Haves/have not’s


Management/laborBusiness ethic/human ethic










We then talk about the implications of understanding the relationship between these apparent polar opposites more dynamically and systemically.  Often we draw the various polarities into a single diagram representing them like spokes on a wagon wheel.  This highlights the recognition that bridgings rarely happen in isolation and serves to counter the common tendency to take one needed change (even if maturely integrative in conception) and make it “the” solution.  Often we follow this mapping by choosing one or two polarities and apply the more formal hands-on approach that follows.

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“Parts Work”:   The most powerfully effective approaches are specifically structured so as to give the person or system almost no option by to engage a more maturely systemic reality.  Most are in some way “parts work” approaches,  methods that juxtapose systemic aspects in ways that make sense only from a maturely integrative perspective.  If there is not sufficient Capacitance available, these approaches will fail as predictably as any others.  But if there is enough, or even just close to enough, they often succeed powerfully. They can be effective even without the person or larger systems knowing what has really happened.

Parts work approach bring whole-box-of-crayons perspective directly into the room The first example applies parts work at the level of the individual but also addresses a broader cultural concern: formulating effective environmental policy. The second example involves working with a group and addresses the abortion debate.

(Link to parts work examples)  

Beyond providing access to culturally mature territory, parts work is significant for the clarity of definition it gives the “posture,” “way of holding experience,” from which culturally mature perspective emanates.  The Whole-Person chair or the Whole-System circumference (in the context of questions that require not just personal, but cultural maturity) provides about as complete a definition as one can get.

Parts work also helps clarify the workings of polar fallacies and the absolute ways they limit perspective (polar fallacies aren’t about “almost” getting it).  Separation Fallacies are about confusing a more rational or objectivist chair/position with  the Whole-Person/Whole-Systems position.  Unity Fallacies are about confusing a more emotional or spiritual chair/position with  the Whole-Person/Whole-Systems position.  And Compromise Fallacies are about a similar confusion with a point half way between these extremes.  Each of these three positions excludes the existence of the more complete holding of reality required for culturally mature perspective.  (CST lets us talk in much greater detail about the particular versions of such fallacies to which a person or larger system may be vulnerable, but the same general principles hold.)

Temporal Approaches.:  A further kind of approach is a bit beyond the scope of this site but worth at least mentioning. It shifts attention from here-and-now “crayons-in-the box” to how particular truths have evolved through time. Examining creative stages and trying to get at what together their realities are about can help get at more integrative conception.  This is a sophisticated approach and requires a group whose members are of uniformly pretty high Capacitance.  But it can be very powerful for bringing detail to culturally mature perspective.

The following dialogue applies this approach to exploring the future of religion.  It describes using improvisational theater techniques to bring alive the realities of different cultural stages and to help make palpable a larger integrative picture.

(Link to temporal approach). 

Cognitive Rewiring: A final approach is less a hands-on technique than a guiding template for understanding needed cognitive changes. But we can readily think of it in terms of what “parts work” when done effectively ultimately accomplishes.

(Link to cognitive rewiring)